cover image The Hartford Book

The Hartford Book

Samuel Amadon. Cleveland State Univ. Poetry Center (SPD, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-880834-97-8

Hartford has proved to be a continuing inspiration to poets, though the city of Amadon’s second collection is a very different place from that of Wallace Stevens. “My mother says Asylum Avenue’s/ the wrong place to start,” begins one early poem, “because the neighborhood’s still// too nice which makes me think/ my mother hasn’t been/ paying attention and doesn’t know// what drug dealers look like.” In this plainspoken, youthful, but wearily cynical voice, Amadon (Like a Sea) offers a tour of Hartford’s underbelly, street by street (many poems are titled with street names), where drugs, too little money, painful family lives, and his troubled postcollege roommate Kenny (“when// Kenny told me he loved me I told him to hold still/ because I had to dab a napkin at/ the cut in his scalp where our friend// Sully had stabbed him minutes before”) make it hard to imagine things getting much better. While the poems do have a sameness of voice and texture to them, this book depicts a life that’s anything but enviable but mostly intoxicating to watch over Amadon’s shoulder; we feel as he comes to finally feel about Kenny: “the truth is I never/ wanted him to get sober like nobody/ really wants any of us to get sober/ they just want to take/ the scarier ride one time & be gone.” (Apr.)