“I read Michael Miller’s poems with great pleasure in their accurate seeing, their assured phrasing, their true and proportionate feeling.”
Michael Miller’s new volume of poems, DARKENING THE GRASS (CavanKerry Press; October; $16.00), plumbs timeless issues of love, aging, war, death, and memory with lyrical language and emotional candor. The poems, some of which first appeared in such prestigious publications as North American Review, Ontario Review, Commonweal, and Chariton Review, display the full measure of this acclaimed poet’s talents, coupling spare and precise writing with haunting images and unadorned sentiment.
“No other poet I know writes so beautifully about seasoned love – love within the context of a life-long marriage,” says Stephen Haven. “In writing about people and the places they share, Michael Miller achieves in his poems a deep sense of emotional integrity. His poems value clarity, understatement, love in the context of its turbulence, and the accuracy of each detail. As a man living in his eighth decade, as a man long married, and as a former Marine, Miller is a poet of the present tense. In his poems, in every present moment, informing one another, death and the possibilities for love tangle around each other.”
The collection is divided into six sections. The opening and closing groupings of poems are drawn form the everyday, winnowing from common occurrences the essence of life.
And then we consider
The divisions we live with,
The distance between
The soul’s requirements
And the other life
That the day demands.
(from “Into Light”)
Next follows a cycle of thirteen poems, “Each Day”– reminiscent of Yeats’s Crazy Jane poems – which traces the quotidian doings and inner life of Old Bill, a “ninety-year-old man/Who fought in three wars,/Married twice, fathered/Seven, and dismisses/His doctor’s advice.”
The third section gathers eleven poems that speak to a soldier’s experience – the poet’s own experiences in Vietnam, the World War II vet, battle-scarred troops in Iraq and back home, in one piece or not. The specter of death haunts the next group of poems – “Its sweetness, its bitterness, its aftertaste” (“Hunger”). A long poem that makes up the fifth section, “The Alien Begins His Day” explores how in life and love we can at once feel connected and disconnected from our own beings.
To begin each day with the tentative
Fumbling efforts rooted in shyness and shame
That will bring him closer to love,
To all that appears alien, like the bones
In the earth, like the fugitive notes
Of the full-hearted bird beginning to sing.
Startling in its clear-sighted directness, the poetry of Michael Miller is at once carefully considered and heartfelt. DARKENING THE GRASS is a moving exploration of the lives of each of us and all of us.
About Michael Miller
Michael Miller’s poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Sewanee Review, The American Scholar, The New Republic, Raritan, The Southern Review, The Yale Review, and other publications. His previous books are The Joyful Dark and The Singing Inside. Born in New York City in 1940, he served four years in the Marine Corps, and now lives in Massachusetts.