This is honestly one of the best and most enjoyable books of poetry I’ve ever read.
As someone who cut his teeth on “eastern” verse, I’m no stranger to shorter poems. I’ve often heard it said that less time on stage means less can go wrong, i.e. shorter poems are somehow easier to write–an idea that I’ve always found ridiculous. With shorter poetry, there’s actually a lot more riding on every word, every syllable. But J.R. Solonche is more than up to the challenge. In this book, Solonche is sharing a lifetime of wit and experience, a whole library of bittersweet moments and insights–and all of it, free of pretension.
I can’t stress this enough: this is honestly one of the best and most enjoyable books of poetry I’ve ever read, and I’ve read thousands. This is also the rare sort of book that you could hand either to a factory worker or a gilded academic and both would be left speechless. The playfulness, humor, and accessibility of these poems blend so perfectly with the underlying brilliance and craft that these poems seem effortless, though they’re anything but. As I was reading this, I kept asking myself, “How is this poem NOT being taught in classrooms all around the world? And what about that one? And this one? And that one?!”
I used to teach a class on Zen poetry, where we frequently read stuff by the ancient Chinese poets, as well as contemporaries like Billy Collins, Kenneth Rexroth, etc. I wish I were still teaching that class because I can guarantee that this book would be a class favorite. It’s certainly a favorite of mine.