Some weeks back I received a copy of Disinheritance by e-friend, poet and literary agent John Sibley Williams. It’s the kind of book that I like to savor slowly over time, because each poem is rich with what I define as true poetry: not words describing situations and sensations so much as situations and sensations finding the right words through the poet’s mind. In other words, I don’t see poetry as being manufactured in the poet’s mind. I see poetry as entering the poet’s mind and being translated, which Williams demonstrates in this collection.
First things first: the cover design is flawless, truly created with love. It’s nice and silky and the interior is equally well designed. The book is divided into three parts; it is well-crafted and well-ordered, and it returns throughout the book to a “Dead Boy” theme (the poet apparently being the “Dead Boy”). Here, a few lines from “A Dead Boy Learns Metaphor”:
The poetries of white blood cells
help us make sense of the body.
The comfort of abstraction,
by our creations.
I rename the white hospital walls swans.
Now they are feathered and I
can finally be their pure spring lake.
The wolves at my bedside say my heart is an ocean
so I construct a simple ark to fit two of each limb.
The sheets are a canvas of long-
so I rake my fingers over cotton and gather their falling.
I read these free-verse poems with the intent of penning a review, so I kept paper in the book and took notes firstly in search of my favorite poem. I found that each poem became my new favorite, or I should say I couldn’t choose a favorite, but I took the contents in slowly and thoughtfully because that’s what the poems require of the reader.
It took me years of reading poetry to arrive at appreciating free-verse. This is among the best of free-verse, the kind of poetry that those who aspire to express poetry should study and take note from literary lessons such as this from “In Apology”:
Not even earth can describe our harvest, not even the sky
and all its burning can speak for ash.
But there comes a time
abstractions must choose what shape to take.
For justice, please look down into my hands
as into a mirror. For truth, here’s
a cord of kindling. For you, a midnight river of stars.
I enjoy the quiet contemplations throughout Disinheritance. From “Oppenheimer”:
Mother we call the beauty in
what cannot be possessed,
and father, where are you
but in the violence it takes
to create her?
So the book flows…one pause, one sigh after another, and I’ll surely read it again and am grateful for my copy which will fit snugly on a shelf in our poetry room. Thanks, John!
Disinheritance (*click*) is now available at Amazon.com.