How Long

Ron Padgett. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-1-56689-256-8
What sets Padgett apart from other accessible, humorous poets is his willingness to become both difficult and serious when a poem requires it. And while it is a commonplace that a poet's late books will focus on mortality, Padgett approaches the subject as a New York School poet who has had to live through the deaths of his friends. "I wish you/ were looking out your window on St. Mark's Place," he writes in "Snowman," "so I could call you/ ... and hear you laugh/ ... and say Ronnie!// I just heard you say it through your ashes." Padgett's complexity lies in his ability to depart from a thought as soon as he introduces it (the poem "Death," for instance, begins, "Let's change the subject"), a strategy of which he is never unconscious: "What was I thinking about/ a few minutes ago when/ another thought/ swept me away?" It is these instances, in which Padgett uses his poems to help piece together his recollections, that give this collection its vulnerability and sincerity. "Could life have been that simple?" Padgett asks, to which he responds with the terrible and soothing fact death brings us: "you don't even have to answer the question." (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/18/2011
Release date: 03/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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