cover image Up Late

Up Late

Nick Laird. Norton, $26.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-324-06544-9

The reflective fifth collection from Laird (Feel Free) continues the poet’s career-long exploration of voice and sensibility. Grief is the book’s central emotion and primary raison d’être: “I know nothing of your grief, granted,/ and you know nothing of mine, but isn’t that why we’re here?” At the center is a lyric sequence about the death of the poet’s father during Covid lockdown. Moments of vivid detail accomplish the work of memoir (“Elizabeth the nurse held the phone against your ear/ and I could hear your breathing, or perhaps the rasping// of the oxygen machine, and I said what you’d expect”), giving rise to larger lessons learned about “the rituals that take us” and the art that preserves such rituals: “An elegy I think is words to bind a grief in,// a companionship of grief, a spell to keep it /safe and sound, to keep it from escaping.” Other feelings weave around this grief, such as wonder at the sight of a sunset (“brilliant, splintered,/ overripe light toward animate clouds”), and the strain of ownership (“I was overwhelmed// then and am again by all the stuff, the bits and bobs, the clobber”). If at times the poet overplays his verbal wit, most readers will delight in poems that model how to attend to—and extend—“the custody of self.” (Nov.)