cover image Keep This Forever

Keep This Forever

Mark Halliday, . . Tupelo, $16.95 (86pp) ISBN 978-1-932195-72-9

Known for garrulously comic moments and dead-on versions of modern Americans' colloquial speech, Halliday (Jab ) begins his fifth book of verse with purposely flat and intensely serious poems reacting to the death of his father, who lived “not without some gladness till he was eighty-nine,/ nourished as well as ravaged by irresistible wishing.” That personal sadness inspires reflections on mortality more generally, at the start as at the end of this striking collection. In between, though, Halliday flaunts his gift for informal humor, poking fun at contemporary ephemera while finding the element of memento mori in each. “Google Me Soon,” one poem invites: “You and I, we could have a connection.” “I'm the little cup of overcooked beans,” another poem decides, “somebody covered with plastic wrap and pushed to the back of/ the fridge.” It can be hard to know when Halliday is kidding—but that difficulty is part of his point: in a world full of people whose stories we may never know, who may or may not have urgent messages for us, Halliday seeks a style sad enough to describe those missed connections, and surprising enough to let us have fun with them, too. (Sept.)