cover image Destroyer and Preserver

Destroyer and Preserver

Matthew Rohrer. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-933517-50-6

Rohrer writes poems that crackle and sputter, often branching toward new meaning and emotion within the span of a single line, as in the book's opening poem, where "the universe/ is a long sentence/ according to our instruments/ the oldest songs are/ breaking apart." If the poems sometimes elevate the mundane in a way that is difficult to trust ("I haven't/ put much thought into it. I just feel good"), they also demonstrate a closeness to their emotional and political urgency ("there is a look in your eyes/ I would blindly fly a plane into") that is rare in contemporary poetry. "The Terrorists" powerfully traces the ways in which the compulsion toward violence implants itself in our psyches ("while she pushes/ her daughter on the swing/ the accusation of the fountains/ murmurs do it") long after a violent event has occurred. For all this sharp observation, Rohrer sometimes leaves a poem on a note of sincere defeat, as in "Poem on the Occasion of the Midterm Election," which ends "It's we who are powerless." Seldom are poets this honest about what we hope isn't true, a fact that renders this collection hopeful in its refusal to tell it any other way. (May)