IN THE WEE, SMALL HOURS OF THE MORN­ING…

Geist - - Endnotes - —Jill Man­drake

From time to time this re­viewer comes across a new po­etry col­lec­tion that stands out amongst the oth­ers. In re­cent months, that col­lec­tion has been Kevin Shaw’s Smaller Hours (Goose Lane). The author had me hooked with the very first poem, “Clocked,” in which he man­ages in eight lines to con­vey a child’s grief over the un­timely loss of two grand­fa­thers. The fi­nale is a pair of ghostly lines: “I be­lieved watches had faces to re­mind us of corpses. / I con­fused grand­fa­ther clocks for the men in their cas­kets.” This slim vol­ume con­tains forty-two po­ems, and not one is a throw­away. Shaw’s style of po­etry can best be de­scribed in a quote about min­i­mal­ist writ­ing by the late master, Raymond Carver: “Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Get on.” There is a sense of ur­gency in the ma­jor­ity of these po­ems, and also a cozy sense of place: Shaw speaks of his home­town, Lon­don, On­tario, with im­pas­sioned touches. If you’ve ever stayed in Lon­don, you’ll im­me­di­ately rec­og­nize the set­tings of “Af­ter Hours in El­don House,” “Vic­to­ria Park” and “Af­ter Jack Cham­bers’s 401 To­wards Lon­don No. 1.” One of the few longer po­ems in Smaller Hours, and one of the best, is “Dis­cre­tion.” It’s writ­ten as though you’re tour­ing through the empty feel­ings as­so­ci­ated with per­sonal ads or ca­sual en­coun­ters. Such feel­ings are pre­sented in a se­ries of one-lin­ers that clev­erly hang to­gether. I felt as though this poem could have been writ­ten by one of our bet­ter one­liner co­me­di­ans—steven Wright, or Jonathan Katz—but if Wright or Katz chose po­etry over stand-up com­edy.

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