A Brooksville poet's force of memory

Posted Wednesday, April 17, 2013 in Culture

A Brooksville poet's force of memory


“CHET SAWING: POEMS”

by Thomas R. Moore

Fort Hemlock Press, Brooksville, 2012

76 pages, trade paperback, $10

by Dana Wilde

Thomas Moore's second collection of poems offers, like its predecessor "The Bolt-Cutters," windows into epiphanic moments minor and major from the poet's life. In this sense "Chet Sawing" is also a collection of generally conventional autobiographical lyrics. But the layers here are multifaceted, and, for readers interested in the actual sense an observant eye makes of life's complexity (as opposed to word games made out of it), this is verse well worth the time spent.

Moore writes in a diction and tone true to certain broad conventions of American open-form poetry: plain-spoken and emotionally subdued or detached, even when recounting startling passions. But "Chet Sawing," like "The Bolt-Cutters," comprises poems that despite their plain-spokenness convey sharp emotions. This distinguishes Moore's poetry from a good deal of what's been written since about 1945, which  often deliberately muffles human feeling. In Moore's world, the feeling that reveals itself — rather than the baldly stated facts — is the key to an event or situation's personal meaning.

The poems are divided into four sections: "Savagery," on boyhood; "Cape Rosier," on scenes from the poet's everyday present in and around his home in Brooksville; "The Gray Trunk," which uses the contemporary device of riffing off findings made in photo albums; and "Paradise Lost," an assortment of epiphanic memories, some distant and extremely painful, others nearer.

The title poem recounts a vivid memory from boyhood of the speaker's father, brother and Uncle Chet cutting wood in the yard. "I am nine, astonished at men," is the feeling that vivifies and enshrines the moment. But the life of the memory is not only in the physical details of sawing, tossing and stacking wood, but in the layers of time unfolding out of that moment: 

 

Chet, iron-age man, calloused feet deep

in fresh sawdust, bending to the wood,

bending to the saw that in twelve years

will receive him when he falls.

 

The microcosmic tragedy in this personal vision of time is striking. Similar exposures of time layering over itself  in memory appear in "My Daughter's Funeral," "Snapshot, 1969" and "The Fatted Calf," which touch on deep personal turbulences of decades-past sojourns in Turkey and Iran.

Meanwhile, spots of time crystallize out of the present moment in all kinds of emotional guises: in "October Garden," which counts the palpable satisfactions of the garden; "Walking Cape Rosier, Early March," which is one of several reports on what the world looks like, and evokes; and "Old Birds," a naturalist's recognition of nature's many ways of mirroring itself in space and time.

Toward the end of the book, "Rumi's Door" seems to concretize that point where time and experience sometimes converge. "A sliding hole / in the clouds / urges me / to enter," the poem begins, and ends: "Is this the open door / of Rumi's prison?"

Rumi, we should note, is the 13th century poet — the Shakespeare, really, of Near Eastern cultures from Iran to Istanbul — whose sensibilities dominate the mystical wings of Islam. In thousands of lyric and narrative poems, Rumi points to the essential unity of everything and everyone in myriad natural ways, and the open door is a metaphor of the constant availability of that unifying vision if you'll just go through it. "Your love of many things," Rumi says at one point, in Coleman Barks' translation, "proves they're one."

Tom Moore, tucked away in his home in Brooksville after a life of travel, carpentry and teaching, gives us in his poems his glimpses of the spots where memory, space and time converge into one. In his world, the feelings in what happened long ago are as alive and vibrant as the feelings in what happened today.

The force of the feelings dissolves time. The final poem, "Paradise Lost," reveals in a collection of old tools a whole life. This is one of those poets, scarcer and scarcer in our time, who can tell a hawk from a handsaw.

Moore, who is retired from teaching at Maine Maritime Academy, has been nominated for Pushcart prizes, and the poem "Chet Sawing" was a winner in the 2011 Maine Postmark Poetry Contest. "The Bolt-Cutters" was a finalist in the 2011 Maine Writers and Publishers competition. His books are available through www.forthemlockpress.com and local bookstores.

 

Dana Wilde’s collection of essays, "The Other End of the Driveway," is available in paperback and electronically from http://booklocker.com/books/5473.html. For more reviews of Maine books and a new poem from Maine each week, please visit A Parallel Uni-Verse, www.dwildepress.net/universe.

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