William Reichard: Two Men Rowing Madly Toward Infinity
In his poem The Crows, an achingly poignant remembrance of his dying sister, William Reichard observes that 'Silence is the secret language in our family, the long gaps / between what we can and cannot say.' In the poem that opens this new collection, he also admits to a 'learned/willful' blindness as a coping mechanism for dealing with a world where 'things change, ' an urge to evasion so that 'I will never turn into the man/I don't want to become.' Silence and blindness might seem an unpromising beginning for poetry. But then Reichard responds through his masterful juxtaposition in A Trip Down Market Street of flickering silent movie images of a doomed San Francisco with his own experience of that city as a place of exhilarating possibility even in the face of the AIDS epidemic: 'I had a sense this might never end/and that was beautiful enough for me.' The hope inherent in that powerful phrase 'might never end' propels Reichard through these poems just as the two men of his title are propelled passionately toward their unattainable goal. It is the effort and not the end that matters, and here that effort takes the form of words and images that answer the silence and the darkness with the eloquent simplicity of ordinary life. Including, it must still be said, the ordinariness of gay love, expressed so perfectly in his poem Sixteen. We have all been there, just as we have all seen the ghosts of people and places that haunt these poems, remnants and reminders of a world passing and past. And still, it is beautiful enough.
William Reichard is a writer, editor, and educator living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of four previous full- length collections of poetry: Sin Eater (Mid-List Press, 2010); This Brightness (Mid-List Press, 2007); How To (Mid-List Press, 2004), a finalist for the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and An Alchemy in the Bones (New Rivers Press, 1999), winner of a Minnesota Voices Prize. Poems from This Brightness and How To have been featured on NPR's "Writer's Almanac." He has published two chapbooks, To Be Quietly Spoken (Frith Press, 2001) and As Breath in Winter (MIEL Books, 2015), and edited The Evening Crowd at Kirmser's: A Gay Life in the 1940s (University of Minnesota Press, 2001). Reichard's anthology of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction, American Tensions: Literature of Identity and the Search for Social Justice, was published by New Village Press in April 2011.
Greg Hewett: Blindsight
The poems here are so plainspoken you might think them ordinary. If they are ordinary, though, it is because they speak to the most common and universal urges of a human s life. But in their spareness, their quiet and matter-of-fact tone, they go way beyond the vision of the farthest telescope, way more intimate than the most powerful microscope. Hewett is a poet desperate to knowthat knowledge is never cheap and always comes at great cost is of no importance, because if anything this poet mistrusts simple vision. He aims deeper, darker. The stakes are high for this poet and his gamble pays off stunningly.
Kazim Ali: I was utterly blindsided by "Blindsight," so aurally and intellectually seduced by its prime and primal rhythms and organization that I was unprepared for the ferocity of its content, the divine funk of its spiraling queer-otics, the shattered mending of its desirousness, and the profundity of its vision of losing vision. If Wallace Stephens s spirit object was the wilderness-organizing jar in Tennessee, Hewett s is a condom, unfurled and full, which holds dominion over this satellite world. Even in this deeply literary collection, Hewett expresses a renegade distrust of the mechanisms of language: "Take blindness as metaphor, " / you say, but I say / take metaphor as blindness / deforming life to get at / the idea behind life / tires me. Always, he seeks the pulse of the unsayable prime beneath words, the visible vision in blindness deep and far.