This is a poetry of small detail and large design. At one level, the guns, wasted terrains, and grinding dailiness of violence surprise and engage. The meticulous craft of detail allows the reader to become both witness and participant. But at a deeper level, the true power and presence of this book, from poem to poem, lies in its offering of the unimaginable to imagination. These are certainly war poems, providing depth and texture to the category. But they are also proof of the hard-won accord that can exist between experience and language, which here lends a memorable force to so many of these poems.
With war, the imagination is drawn to spectacle, which these poems are not—and in that way, they help us to understand the unspectacular horror of the regular. ‘There was never that black bowling ball, a burning fuse / waving its tail,’ is clear enough, but followed with the more devastating extension of experience, ‘No bombs but / in things.’ These clearly important poems disabuse us from thinking of war as we may have—as games, as movies, as acts of what we are convinced is the imagination, having played war as kids. These poems change the reader by offering drama where it is least expected. They are not imagined. ALBERTO RIOS