GERALD SCHWARTZ Reviews
The Way We Live by Burt Kimmelman
(Dos Madres Press, Loveland, OH, 2011)
The author of numerous collections of poetry and criticism, Burt Kimmelman has for years been an active presence in contemporary poetry. In The Way We Live he shows us again he is a writer in motion, whether across a yard or across the planet, he is expansive in his portrayal of days, present and past. He holds a mirror up to ordinary events in an effort to reveal their innate poetry, as if to ask Does the world belong to us or do we instead belong to it? Frequently on the lookout for deepened connections, he realizes they may remain at bay but encourages his poems to emit slight signals of hope to us through the interplay of words on the page. Hints of emotion, particularly expressed as admiration for our natural surroundings, further point Kimmelman’s poetry toward the lyrical according to a poetic compass of here and now, as in Cicadas, Mid July:
the cicadas do their work—no more
twitters of birds, our regret spun in
the din and the waning of the light.
These poems leave one listening to the world’s “secret business, / unseen no matter where we look,” raised up from routine and better able to admire the beauty in the everyday.
Combining his sharp eye for the exact nature of all he observes with a thinker’s soul (and a lover’s heart), Kimmelman is attuned to how people and things interact, as in Alhambra Steps, quoted in entirety:
Leaving the palace
we descend the steep
stone stairs arm in arm—
you pulling me down,
me holding you up.
The Way We Live does what it implies—it shows how our others and our surrounds soothe, reassure, suggest forgiveness, appease. Whether quietly whispered or marked by a certain warmth, it uplifts and entrances, as much through its thoughtful seeking and questioning as through its striking, yet in its images so recognizable, we-wish-we-had-said-that lines.
Born in Pottsville, Pa. in 1958, Gerald Schwartz is the author of ONLY OTHERS ARE: Poems, WORLD and SPKNGinTONGUES.