cover image More Winnowed Fragments

More Winnowed Fragments

Simon Pettet. Talisman House Publishers, $10.95 (42pp) ISBN 978-1-58498-042-1

It is difficult to speak softly and slowly and yet compel an audience to lean in and listen, a feat Pettet (Selected Poems, 1995) attempts in this humble collection. Thoroughly winnowed, these 35 spare, mostly untitled, free verse poems jaggedly etch their way down the page and seem sifted in hopes of providing only their purest elements. To introduce his fragmentary works' perverse satisfactions, Pettet begins the book with the short ars poetica: ""I accrue hordes // and then // winnow away, // It is a thankless task, // tho' not without // occult comfort."" Clipped, intense, often intensely dismal and abruptly concluded, these poems work to shock the reader toward insight with bare-bones expressions of beauty and truth: ""It is when the extreme point of restlessness / is reached / that grace comes // at a terrific speed."" While surveying the existential grimness of New York City as well as more pastoral settings, Pettet creates moments of haiku-like stillness: ""what is the Latin name for / that mysterious connective tissue // bless you-that we all possess?"" Though he is susceptible to instances of unconvincing sentimentality and poems too short or fragmentary to hold the reader's attention, Pettet has crafted a book of radical simplicity to meet an increasingly complex world.