Illness, a father's death, moments in the lives of artists and authors as diverse as Bach
, and T. S. Eliot
? these are among the subjects of Floyd Skloot
's exceptional new collection of poems, The End of Dreams
(Louisiana State University Press).
LSU's list is characterized by a commitment to poets who write at the more formal end of the spectrum, with more attention paid to rhyme and meter than is the norm for much contemporary American poetry. Skloot's book is no exception. His lines are measured and rhythmic, and, although he seldom turns overtly to rhyme, they have an inner form that is clear to the ear and tongue when read either silently or aloud, as many of them merit doing.
These poems are luminous and transformative. Poem after poem is quietly breathtaking, whether telling of his father's role as a civil defense leader in "doomsday" drills in the fifties, or writing of Cezanne's experience of light at the end of a misbegotten day. Many of these poems tell wonderful narrative stories, others offer glimpses into the minutiae that make up meaningful lives.
One of the strongest poems in the collection, and hands down my favorite, is "Whitman Pinch Hits, 1861" in which an aging Walt is drawn into an early game of baseball. Like many of these poems, this one also delivers a quietly philosophical zinger: "Time does turn thick, Whitman thought, does press itself/against a man's body as he moves through a world torn apart/by artillery fire and weeping. Without knowing it happened."
LSU is apparently having a banner year in the poetry department, having also published Claudia Emerson's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Late Wife and Henry Taylor's Crooked Run, another fine book of poems.
Congratulations to Floyd on an excellent book. Here's to many more.