“I come here when I fear my soul/has fled forever,” says the speaker in Appearances, about a place where land, water, and sky converge.
In poems that take their shape from daily walks around a teeming harbor, Michael Collins meditates on nature, though not nature as “some place you visit/some museum to nostalgia through,” but as a place of meeting and confrontation between nature and civilization, art and subject, consciousness and the unconscious, life and death.
The poems in this sequence render images offered by both the human and natural worlds, even as the speaker knows that he “can’t reason these worlds/back together.”
"Michael Patrick Collins is at the height of his creative powers in Appearances. Always expert at integrating myth into contemporary life, making it not merely relevant but urgent, his work is both intimate and universal. Collins delves into the mysteries of the human heart, memory, nostalgia, regret, loss, and love with almost unbearable poignancy, but without sentimentality. A careful observer of the endangered natural world and the precarious inner life, he has both the keen eye of Bishop and the soul of Yeats. What an explosive combination this marriage of sensibilities produces--a singular voice of conviction and inquiry. Collins is no stranger to self-examination and self-argument. The entire book can be read as a dialogue with the self that explores the ways things are often more than they seem: 'Ducks have transformed into pigeons/for winter, their pastel paintings;/the snow-suited woman kneeling to pray/remakes the lone, cold beach into a temple.' Never finished probing his suppositions, the restless voice in this collection holds his knowledge of myth, history, the canon, philosophy as he interrogates and discovers his own beliefs. This speaker bears his soul in his poems and we are the richer for it."
--Jennifer Franklin, author of Looming
"In shimmering poems of double vision, Michael Collins offers walking meditations of the harbor he visits when he fears 'his soul has fled forever.' Driven by the predations of the world, he circles the 'mirrors of this haven,' startled into wakefulness and linguistic wit by orphic fish, 'quacking sandals' and 'sacrosanct mallards,' recasting myth and metaphysics in poems whose inventive formal and visual inversions upend any sense of solidity. This slipperiness of language and image opens into a spacious vision of 'fresh joy' that returns the speech-fused soul to a 'new body that can hold it.' We know from the title--Appearances--that things are not as they seem, but these poems poised at land's end reveal the marvelous seam that joins all worlds in one."
--J. C. Todd, author of What Space This Body
"These urgent, spiritually searching poems glint with evocative description, fresh language, and inventive forms. This is a book rather than a collection, moving through close observations of sea and shore, to an often humorous self-awareness, and ultimately to a discovery of meaning in the 'appearances,' as in: 'I've finished losing the world I thought I controlled; in the tiny light/flecks on delicate wavelets dawn and haven face one another.' Intellectually rigorous and subtly moving, Appearances is a pleasure to read and re-read."
--Joan Aleshire, author of Happily
November 1, 2017
$16 (Kindle $4.99)
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