Alone and Not Alone

Ron Padgett. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-56689-401-2
Can a prolific poet produce a breakthrough book after age 70? Padgett might have done it here: the casual, almost diffident, jazz-influenced New York School poet, whose Collected Poems won the L.A. Times Book Prize in 2013, follows up with a volume whose charm, ease, and humor should please casual readers unfamiliar with his previous work as well as fans who have enjoyed him for decades. “Reality has a transparent veneer,” he quips, “that looks exactly like the veneer beneath it”; Padgett’s clear, even faux-naive poems sometimes imitate ballads and nursery rhymes, or else veer into sweetly bizarre anecdotes in prose. He pays attention to how children think and to what grown-ups can learn from them—the collection is dedicated to his son, Wayne, and features poems about his grandson, Marcello. Zhuangzi’s butterfly, self-propelled lawn furniture, “the Step Theory of Reality/ and its by-product the Ziggurat Configuration” all pop out of poems that connect the poet to the world he enjoys. “Don’t go around all day/ thinking about life,” Padgett advises; “doing so will raise a barrier/ between you and its instants./ You need those instants,” he continues “and I need you to be in them with me.” A poet who can say that after decades of work deserves many admirers. (May)
Reviewed on: 05/18/2015
Release date: 05/01/2015
Genre: Fiction
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