cover image The Looking House

The Looking House

Fred Marchant, . . Graywolf, $15 (63pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-528-9

Marchant remains best known for his poems against war: he left the Marines as a conscientious objector, the first officer to do so during the Vietnam War. Marchant (Tipping Point ) remembers in this third book how his service troubled him and registers his dissent from more recent wars in energetic lines. He devotes more space, though, to more general lessons: “like the squirrels in the pine,” he writes, “I would teach my heart how to be a heart.” Marchant has long cherished connections to Ireland and to Irish poetry: “I loved the sweet silence of hay as it cured” on an Irish farm, he says, “and the labor too,/ the mowing and tossing,// letting grass breathe itself dry.” Like William Stafford—the influential American pacifist poet, whose poems Marchant edited—Marchant can see himself as a spiritual teacher, recording his struggles to set an example: he is most interesting when those struggles fail, and the poems present not wisdom but frustration—at the senseless illness of his sister, at nature (“the whorl of planets, a gristly wheel of trees”), at “the frantic,/ grinding inability to attend/ to anything but sere thwarting/ of yourself.” (June)