cover image Escape from Combray

Escape from Combray

Rick Snyder, . . Ugly Duckling, $14 (80pp) ISBN 978-1-933254-51-7

In his first full-length collection, Snyder presents a flaneur who moves through an after-hours and underground Chicago—a quiet, almost desolate place where, in his state of solitude, the walker can say (somewhat to his own surprise), “I am happy—/ in a strange city,/ at 4:15 in the morning.” The poems are full of striking, discrete images reminiscent of George Oppen (“innumerable pigeons”; “the light/ the idea/ of rain/ the amazing clutter/ organized on both/ sides of the street/ hot dogs t-shirts beepers tires”). In the midst of this array of well-wrought, steely visuals, a self-portrait emerges of a man going over his lost loves, seized by the power of his memories: “I see her dresses dangling/ from countless naked limbs.” Still, the city wanderer is invigorated by his aloneness, for “Now real words come,/ each one perfectly/ weighted, rising/ toward the surface—// their meanings are solid,/ their tones clear.” Snyder is an astoundingly articulate poet, able to thrust the reader straight into these eerie nighttime experiences to hear loud and clear the sound “of crumpling paper/ and foil.” This is an enveloping debut. (Oct.)