cover image Pretty, Rooster

Pretty, Rooster

Clay Matthews, Cooper Dillon (, $14 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-0-9841928-4-7

This third collection from Matthews (Superfecta) weaves together 50 sonnets on subjects as diverse as the Kentucky Derby and "all those songs in the trees." Matthews opts to call his sonnet sequences "cockscombs," rather than crowns, referring to the red crown worn by the book's titular bird. Matthews is a poet for whom cleverness and down-home fun are essential (there is, for example, a flip-book rooster that flaps its wings in the corner as the book progresses). The self-consciousness of these poems is as often their charm as their weakness. Several of these rhymed sonnets end on the same note of stubborn complacence—"You know/ how it goes. Have a beer. Enjoy the show"—while others simply list a few happenings ("Birds chirp. Lavender blooms, etc.") and wonder if "maybe people are sick and tired of these/ things in poems." Nevertheless, Matthews achieves moments of candor and tenderness when he is able to appropriate pentameter and rhyme in ways that bolster his wit, as in "Analog," in which he croons, "I turn on some old beat records and call / for a little more bourbon. Some nights we/ dance in the small spaces between the wall,/ the couch, the future." (Oct.)