cover image Surrounded by Friends

Surrounded by Friends

Matthew Rohrer. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $18 trade paper (112p) ISBN 978-1-940696-03-4

Urbanized and delicate, contemplative and wry, the poems in this latest collection from Rohrer (Destroyer and Preserver) explore the loneliness that thrives alongside (and in spite of) overpopulated cities, and the friendship and assembly offered by the living and dead. Rohrer’s style is sparse and impressionistic; reading the poems captures the feelings of chance encounters. In “The World’s Most Famous Painting,” the speaker considers the power of attention: “I think there is/ a kind of attention I can pay this painting/ that Paolo [Caliari, known as Paolo Veronese] can feel, though he is dead.” Later in the collection, solitude becomes necessary for a poem to thrive: “At Dante’s house/ there is no poem/ until the tour guide/ goes silent/ on his wireless earphones/ and walks away/ for a just a moment.” Reading Rohrer’s work, one has the distinct impression that the poems, seemingly so spontaneous, will linger indefinitely with their reader. These glimpses of a life “in progress” are echoed in Rohrer’s borrowings from Basho and other masters of haiku. With Rohrer, this inheritance is brought into the modern age, as when he “collaborates” with 18th-Century Japanese poet Buson (a contemporary of Basho): “when I open my mouth/ not even a bird singing/ contains all my ideas/ for rising and falling all day/ my phone vibrates/ its tiny mouth/ in the mountain’s shadow.” [em](Apr.) [/em]