Love & Sundries. Nicholas Reading. Split Lip Press. Richmond, Virginia. 2014.
If Nicholas Reading is only going to publish one book every seven years at least he's making the wait worthwhile. Love & Sundries is quite the read.
Today's book of poetry really got a kick in the pants from Reading's fairly unique blend of styles. Here is a cat who can be as dainty as a dancer and dangerous as a duel all in one line.
Reading really does have a pace that is quite his own and it is such a worthwhile price of admission. He's quicksilver smart and genuinely innocent in the same whispered taunt.
St. Valentine's Massacre
It would be surprising if smoke didn't blanket the room.
Every fellow with their hands in their pockets
didn't stand a chance. Doors bolted, I imagine,
behind them sounded many times
in their ears. The brick cold on their palms
legs in an awkward spread. We assume that men
understood this risk. They are fatalities
of unsavory business. Whose girlfriend, or wife,
got the best farewell prayer? At least one of them
had to know what that bolt lock meant. One
must have wished for someone. Maybe
for someone else to die. And the triggermen
had a choice and made it. One had a date that night.
One had a piece of birthday cake with his mother.
W.H. Auden often wrote about nothing and explained everything with the lazy whisk of a horse tail sweeping at a short-lived fly. Nicholas Reading does the same damned thing.
There is hope in these poems but it is begrudgingly given. There seems to be that knowledge that despite ourselves we may yet find redemption. I believe Reading wants us to hope -- just not to set our hopes too high.
If there is a bridge someone jumps from it.
condemns the leap. I believe the splash
might become sacrament
minus the guilt and chance for mourning. Time enough
to prepare a meal
knowing someone other than us is dead.
Dogs trolled the shore.
Families gathered bones but called the search off
because of cold.
The missing body would last the freeze. Snow
covered the volunteers'
steps home. Headlights led them blind.
in living rooms behind curtains drawn
corked to keep warm. The Eleven o'clock
it was that guy. We touch each other so little
you said to me.
We went to bed. Over breakfast
Our faults for believing if there is a bridge
someone can cross it.
Writing Today's book of poetry is a great pleasure and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you readers for making it possible. One of my goals was to be as honest and straightforward with my reactions to poetry as possible. All of that to say that Love & Sundries was a very peculiar read for me, and in the best possible way. At less than fifty pages it read like a big, big book.
These are not difficult poems to access, quite the contrary, Reading has dialed into a direct conduit. These poems sting a little and then feel so sweet.
And Reading has a hard sense of humour. We like that here.
I would describe the terrain
with aggression. It has no favors
to lend. People are scarce. Squirrels
are few. Birds make appearances
to give you hope for water soon.
Pillows will be boots
if you haven't boiled them yet.
Try blankets of sweat and worry
and tea can be made of tears.
You've only all day to go.
The echo of the waterfall
is only an echo. Real sounds
are cries. Rest at the switchback
and you could be there forever.
Forever. As in you will not last.
Mountains are not used to us and
river currents become dreams
of freeways. You could eat another
for a gallon of gasoline. Sell
a limb for a Hostess cherry pie.
What beams of light that shocked
our steps will be called Sun.
There are no secrets or secret names.
A butterfly led us to the top
and hunger drove us down.
Everyone in our office loved this book. Solid and fierce poetry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nicholas Reading is the author of the chapbook The Party In Question (Burnside Review Press, 2007). His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Bat City Review, jubilat, Nimrod, Painted Bride Quarterly, and San Pedro River Review. He also serves as the Managing Editor for Sport Literate.
"In his second collection Love & Sundries, Nicholas Reading balances tragedy and empathy with both fear and wisdom in narrators who often yearn for what they don't quite know how to achieve. Somewhere between inner-voice of Mack from Cannery Row and the hard-bitten Richard Hugo, these poems tether themselves to hope amidst the elegiac emptiness of miles of flat land and peripheral characters who turn out to mean much more, where memories are finally forgotten to "create a future again and again and again tomorrow.""
- Keith Montesano, author of Ghost Lights and Scoring the Silent Film
"In "Directive," Robert Frost describes a guide "who only has at heart your getting lost." Such a guide, it seems to me, is the poet Nicholas Reading. He observes whimsically: "On the bank of the river/ a few people are lost. I expect more// will join. No one will admit we did nothing/ to prevent this gathering from happening." So it is with his poems. They let us wander and get lost, but also gather and congregate. If a host of lost people find each other, the post implies slyly, are they really lost? Another poem ends with Dirty Rosa saying, "You will not like...but you are/ welcome here." Despite their edginess, and because of their edginess, Reading's poems make us welcome. They say in capital letter, TRESPASS PLEASE."
- Donald Platt, author of My Father Say Grace and Dirt Angels
To hear Nicholas Reading read his excellent poems follow this lead:
Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher. They are shown here for publicity and review purposes. For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.