The Voice of A Poet
Reviewed by Katharine Gilbert
“All poetry is confession.” – Goethe
Perhaps some readers may remember the sixties. Abbie Hoffman wrote a book with the title Steal This Book. Well don’t steal, but please do read Joseph Meredith’s newest work Inclinations of the Heart.
April is poetry month. So before you search for that old used worn out Lowell, Auden or Frost book put that idea aside and reach for Meredith, whose last work, Hunter’s Moon, was a sweet slim volume of simple delights of life from boyhood to manhood. One poem about his connection to his older brother by tossing a football was really a snapshot of our own forgotten days of brothers and sisters at play.
In his new work, Meredith continues through life using big themes of family, loss, memory, love, and regret with such calm and graceful prose, it is almost subversive.
You do not see it coming and when you feel the impact of his words, it is a stunning experience.
Sectioned by “The Seasons” with an extra “Season of Love,” he manages to expand your own sense of sight, sound and color resulting in a greater awareness of seeing and feeling his poems.
Some works are almost tactile, so powerful is the effect of his words. For example, read the winter section “Christmastime.” An immediate place setting and coldness in the hospital adds to the wistful sadness of the opening lines that his father might have enjoyed the singing of carols as he lay dying.
Those first lines are rocked in the fourth stanza as Meredith described the emptiness growing minutes after his father did die that evening.
Listen to his voice…I felt some nothing in me start to grow, a zero, like an ice cube wrapped in snow. We get the chill as we have had that feeling and know it well. What better words to capture experience and give to us readers.
Meredith has a movie maker’s eye for developing a story, In “Paddy Whelan’s,” which opens with… Caribbean heat without the breeze…Do you feel the closeness? Then making sure you are at the bar, he follows a few lines later with…The place smells of roast lamb and pints and cigars… can you breathe yet?
I know this spot even though I know I don’t, because Meredith like the great director John Ford has a perfect sense of place.
It is the richness of his words that makes Meredith a pleasure to read. He knows the language and finds ways of expression that seems simple but very hard to do so well. He paints us into every line as we are startled to recognize what we have so long ignored.
The sounds in his words are what I find unusual. In the poem, “Fall and All That”… the crunch of tree nuts and locust pods that spill like a nun’s rosary. We get the bead-seed connection but also the natural sounds of the earth renewing itself.
There are words that capture purpose and sound such as the jangly line of the monitor in the hospital. We feel and hear jangly which is, no doubt, Meredith’s true strength and purpose as a poet.
It is said that the best poets write the music of life. In Meredith’s, “The Good Grey Poet” his tribute to a Poet that he does see in all the old familiar places reminded me of that old song and from now on I will be looking at the moon and I will be seeing you, Joe Meredith.
Inclinations of the Heart
By Joseph Meredith
Time Being Books/Time Being Press
St. Louis, Missouri