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Whether the author is recalling lessons learned as a young actor in the role of a Shakespearean clown, thinking about the painter Georges Braque reassembling himself after wartime head injuries, or imagining his volatile parents reunited in the afterlife following his mother's death at age ninety-six, Skloot's accessible poems move and delight, creating his most emotional and engaging work to date.
Skylark, 1953 4
A Period of Mourning 5
Butcher's Apprentice 6
Playing the Bawd at Twenty 7
July 6, 1947 9
In the Night 12
Waiting in Darkness 13
Indigo Psalm 14
Georges Braque in Pieces, May 1915 17
Paul Signac at Castellane, 1902 18
Monet at Giverny, 1921 19
John Field in Russia, 1835 20
Debussy at Sunrise 21
The Young Composers at Play, Westhampton, 1929 22
William Butler Yeats among the Ghosts 24
Thomas Hardy at the Harvest Supper 25
The Ensemble 29
Plein Air 32
Finishing Kick 33
Morphine Haze 34
The Developers 35
Closer to Home 36
Island Night 37
A Unified Field 38
First Steps 42
First Light, Late Winter 44
Silent Music 47
Late Autumn Air 48
Digging Zak's Grave 49
In the Hills above Amity 50
Ezra Pound in a Spring Storm 52
New Home at Sixty 54
Posted March 20, 2009
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The best in different genres elicit common responses from readers. Good mysteries are described as "page turners", good fiction makes people stay up all hours and read or tell everyone about the great story they've come across. Good poetry, however makes one slow down, savor the moment, read the poem over, and think about how it was crafted and what it said.
I took my time with Floyd Skloot's newest, "The Snow's Music". A master of cadence, inner/end rhyme, sentence breaks and also a person who has experienced deep pain and loss, Skloot writes to cherish the moment and honor the senses.
Separated into four distinct sections, "The Snow's Music" uses details from Skloot's life, landscapes large and small and mini biographies of famous artists as backdrops. One of the many poems I read over and over is entitled "Paul Signac at Castellane, 1902":
In late afternoon heat, Signac takes
the curves slowly, coasting when he can,
feet at rest on the pedals. Florid light
turns the cliff rosy as he swerves to a stop
where the Verdon at last comes into sight.
It is pure emerald, just as he remembers.
The ancient bridge shimmers in the river's
reflection. But there is no time for memory.
No time even to think. Purple shadows
stain the cliff's throat, lap at the bank,
and he needs to capture the broken light
that brought him to a halt before it vanishes.
Signac drops his pack, scrabbles inside
for his pad and paint tray. He rushes past two
washerwomen, bends to fill his tin cup
at the riverbank, and touches by chance
the very place where green becomes blue.
No matter how quickly he moves, time
moves faster. Suddenly he feels the river
growing still, then turning back on itself.
He has a vision of the cliff crumbling
in ebony chunks. There are no people,
no scents, no sounds. He falls to his knees,
knowing the dark future when he sees it.
It all happened so fast. Behind him,
the wheels of his bicycle continue to spin.
Turning 60 has given Skloot an even greater appreciation for the constant parts of his life - his marriage, the power of nature plentiful and nature remaining, the pockets of community still flourishing under the monotony of globalization, memory that sustains no matter how positive or painful.
Skloot is serious yet incredibly humane, his writing vivid and detailed while leaving me pondering the possibilities of my own past and future.