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Michael Blumenthal’s Days We Would Rather Know

This is not my poem,

but a poem which –

if I were a citizen

of another country –

I would write for you.

And you would love it,

I’m absolutely certain.”

-Poem By Someone Else

Such is Michael Blumenthal’s heartful poetry, humble & austere, richly longing & playful all at once.  His words are creatures amongst themselves, framing scenes within sentences & fitting frames around these frames: a layered tapestry of verse & imagined love.

In Days We Would Rather Know, Blumenthal tackles themes & concerns evident at the most human level: a father’s degradation into post-maturity, a man’s feminine side (sometimes sensitive, most times not), the strength of a single word whispered at just the right time by just the right someone.  His poems act as philosophical tableaus through lenses we all recognize, & his language has a way of depicting scenes beautifully with a single line.

How a man aches at times like these toward

places he has left and can never return to;

how he looks into the faces of his own wife

and child and staggers to bed in the sheer

empathy and pain of wanting to become them.

And how, when his wife rises from the dimmed

light of their child’s afterbirth, he too

will rise, and all that is good in this world

will speak his name into the tight tercet

of their togetherness.  And his son

will call him Father, and his wife: a man.”

– Couvade

The book is separated into five sections, each containing poetry indicative of the section’s title.  While the most powerful section is The Woman Inside, with its repeated imagery of gender disassociation & wanton wombs, the final section, Days We Would Rather Know, contains some of the sharpest poems the book has to offer.  I have spent a long time posting this review for the simple reason that each poem by Blumenthal warrants an immeasurable number of readings, & to give them any less attention would be a disservice.  His work is one yearning for love & comfortable with a life well loved at the same time, & this struggle creates not only the backbone of this book but, one could argue, life itself.

[Brad Efford]

As a post-script, Blumenthal is currently spending time in residence at West Virginia University, & the following is a reading he gave from his seventh book, And, at the WVU library.  It’s worth the time.

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