Reading at Open Books, May 25th at 7:30PM

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 07:30 PM


There are, in Allen Braden's first book of poems,
A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood ($16.95 Georgia), sixteen sonnets, each with a title beginning "Taboo against the Word Beauty...." Seeking after and exploring the occasions of beauty, and beauty's counterweight, seems fundamental to his harsh and elegant work. The world of these poems is rural, the vision is unsentimental -- "his future's on a hoist / overhead like a side of venison." Hunting, farming, and working with tools feature prominently in Braden's meditations on love and the destructive nature of life. His touchstone is perhaps that "climatic moment // of neither coming nor going, when breath ends, / before song begins."

In Requiem for the Orchard ($14.95 Akron), Oliver de la Paz's third collection, coming of age is handled with a sly intensity. Through sharp detail -- "the Ferris wheel / was the tallest thing in the valley" -- and emotional truth -- as a teen-ager "nothing / went better than planned" -- de la Paz conveys the experience of growing up a cultural outsider in rural Oregon. Coming of age is a life-long process, and so it is here, too. Among the fatherhood poems there's this lulling reassurance from the free-verse lullaby "No One Sleeps through the Night" -- "Little no one, peace and go. / I'll be watching while the sleep gods // lean and cast their shadows here."