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Reccomendation: The Third Body, Jeff Knorr

Jeff Knorr’s collection The Third Body preaches the beauty of simplicity. Knorr finds strength in providing meaning and depth to the ordinary. His volume consistently intertwines themes of human connection and physical landscape. Knorr uses low language and controlled form in poems which are praised as “quiet yet intense” (Marylin Chin), leaving the reader with lingering images and the desire to reexamine the hidden poetry in their own lives.

Knorr’s book is divided into three sections, differentiated by form and subject matter. In the first section, Knorr explores longer stanzas and poems that utilize winter imagery to examine deeper themes. In “A Poem Before Christmas” Knorr writes,

“A gust rattles the sycamores

In their December skin. The dog and I pause.

I can nearly hear the soft thumping of burro hooves

A low singing for shelter, the shallow breathing

Rising out of her round middle, as if all day God

has stretched though this flaking, bitter cold.”

Though Knorr’s language is simple, his images are strong and word choice unfailingly deliberate. I was particularly taken with description of the sycamores “December skin.” Knorr’s power in his poetry comes from his ability to pair these universal, beautiful images with subtle profundity.

The second section, titled “Measuring our Days” is a series of poems written in couplets. Predominantly, the poems focus on a marital relationship, but Knorr manages to avoid sentimentality by pairing unexpected images. In the poem “Consider the Facts” Knorr writes,

“Only a century before a goatherd slept in the spot.

I wonder why we consider anything sacred on hearsay.

There have been five cars, two boats, too many airplanes.

None of these is worth a moment of stillness.

I fear touching my love; she is made of cinders.

As light comes, the moon breaks to ashes in the west.”

Knorr, does not skirt around subjects or obfuscate meanings with fancy poetic conventions. He even shies away from enjambment; each line in this poem is its own sentence. The images and scene are refreshingly easy to envision, and a reader can imagine most of these lines emerging in conversation. The simplicity in Knorr’s writing certainly a risk, but it is a risk that is rewarded.

I’d recommend Knorr to pretty much every reader. With a quiet tone and unembellished aesthetic, Knorr’s work will resonate in the reader’s mind with a reminder to slow down and take a second look at the ordinary.

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