Friday, February 17, 2012
Secrets No One Must Talk About
2011 Dos Madres Press Inc.
Poems by Martin Willitts Jr.
Softbound, 31 pages, No Price
Review by Zvi A. Sesling
There are places, like a dust storm, we cannot avoid.
They prick like cactus and sting of scorpion rains.
They hold secrets better than a poker game.
The people in this place have to know how to survive.
It is a scrap-by living, full of possible dangers, yet they survive.
This is such a place.
What a way to begin a book of poetry…this is but the first of six stanzas of Willitts’s Introduction, the first poem in this short, tidy volume the first few of which remind me
in some ways of Spoon River Anthology in that Willitts channels a knife sharpener and a peddler. He echoes the best of the best poets who wrote in Spanish: Vallejo, Lorca and Neruda. He bases poems on the photographs of Consuelo Kanaga. Yet his best poems are those he conjures from the deep within himself like these lines from At the Funeral:
Men fear their own tears
like they were forbidden and
shameful. So they so inwardly like rain.
Or some lines from Joshua Trees:
They reach out into the endless desert skies
for some answer that never comes. The silence
is arid, dry as a belief no one believes.
Willitts’s poems a mostly brought up from his inner self, from his observations of life, of
people and we are left to determine for ourselves whether his “observations” are those he
makes of other people or if they might be autobiographical. We care which because as one line in the Slaughterhouse of the Crows states: “We did not understand this obsession.”
Willitts is a librarian as was Philip Larkin, and while I do not attempt to compare the two, I find it interesting that they both write poetry that cuts a path of enjoyment for the reader.
Martin Willitts Jr. presents us with a strong, fearless volume of poetry that dares to be obvious and mysterious at the same time, that takes mythic songs and captures the heart of experience.