RED CAR GOES BY: Selected Poems 1955–2000

Jack Collom, Author . Tuumba Press $15 (514p) ISBN 978-1-931157-01-8

A new volume of writings by someone with breadth, skill, imagination and ambition who has received little national notice even after a long, dedicated career writing poetry, Collom is long overdue for this apotheosis. Collom has a distinguished reputation in his home state of Colorado, but his writings have mostly been the property of a small group of dedicated readers. Five of those readers (Reed Bye, Clark Coolidge, Larry Fagin, Merrill Gilfillan and Lyn Hejinian, along with Collom himself) edited this huge selection, which celebrates his 70th birthday. Collom thrives on taking on any form out there—sonnets, rhyming quatrains, concrete poetry ("Half Eaten W" is exactly that, teeth marks and all), list poems, projective verse and illustrated narrative tracts—and twisting it to his idiosyncratic purposes, making a point at every turn of breaking free of any cultural loyalties encountered along the way: "When Mr. Mustelid massacres 50 imprisoned chickens,/ he's only doing what in the wild—/ That is, in balance—would disperse/ Itself/ gracefully. The fault/ Is in domesticity,/ that is,/ in arbitrary enclosures./ Forgive the personal example." Collom is also a lifelong, dedicated birdwatcher, and many of his longer poems reflect that theme; "Blue Heron" is his folksy reply to Stevens's blackbird, while "Passage" seems a response to Olson's "The Kingfishers." Collom enters into ethereal heights by starting with the minute perception, or with the stuff of the everyday, as in one of his "Domestiku": "ant has mind/ I see it/ change." For those of us who aren't able to balance our strivings against the lively machinations of breathing, excitable nature-with-a-capital-N, Collom, a sort of Ted Berrigan for the Colorado steppes, presents us with a window of opportunity. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 12/17/2001
Release date: 09/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
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