cover image As Is

As Is

James Galvin, . . Copper Canyon, $15 (68pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-296-6

Galvin’s seventh collection of poems returns to the barren, apparently hopeless landscapes of his previous books, though, as before, hope pops up in the most unlikely places, at the most unexpected times. While not as sharp as the almost embarrassingly moving X , this book begins in the aftermath of the relationship whose demise X chronicled, opening in a vulnerable state where “Confusion/ Overwhelms” and “The whole world is watching.” Then, through willed belief—as in the poem prayer, which says “This poem is not what you think./ It’s what thinks you”—a measure of control is achieved. Toward the end, Galvin pays tribute to newfound love—“When I rest my head over her heart/ I can hear the rowing,/ Paddle-splash and oarlock-knock.” But of course it’s not that simple. Throughout the book are woven poems about a hazily sketched, cosmically powerful character named “The Mastermind,” who, with cohorts including “The Go-To Guy” and “The Expert,” gets in the way of smooth sailing: “Did I mention the mastermind was absent-minded?” But in Galvin’s world, which now mirrors and comments on post-9/11 America, the bad is as good as the good, because, “Everything/ That threatens us/ Threatens to save us.” (July)