Fragile Acts

Matthew Dickman

Written language is everywhere. It’s in the books we read, on cereal boxes, commercials, traffic signs, inside trail guides, on soda cans, cosmetic products, warning labels, cars, shoes, jeans, it’s all over receipts and store windows, cookbooks Nascars, and small cards beneath pieces of art. In fact our written language exists in so many places that we might believe, once in a while, it to be found in nature as well. Of course there is no written language in nature but sometimes doesn’t it FEEL like there is?

It certainly feels that way to me: an ethereal, secret, written language that we experience but can’t see. It’s easy to sense that private language but almost impossible to write… unless you’re Allan Peterson! Or perhaps more directly, unless you’re Allan Peterson’s latest book of poems Fragile Acts, recently published in the new, yet already exciting, McSweeney’s Poetry Series.

Reading this book makes you feel as if Peterson’s understanding of language, of both the natural and manmade world, of compassion and understanding, of inquiry and the wildness of the heart, is so particular that he could be a messenger from another world, of another poetic understanding we are only just beginning to grasp:

“There were times glass would cry out itself,

even unbroken, little shrieks from rubbing

with water and ammonia while trying

to make the yard and dinning room come closer”

But “Fragile Acts” not only makes you feel something, it makes you celebrate, and it makes you think:

“Stop. There is no need to spread the animals everywhere.

No reason everyone should have a collection including a few of everything.

That is what the mind is for.”

That is what the mind is for!


This is an exciting book and although I was originally sent a review copy from our brothers and sisters at McSweeney’s, I have bought another six from different bookstores for different friends because Fragile Acts needs to be read, it needs to be in the world. YES! It needs to be in the same strange wonderful world that Peterson illuminates, puzzles over, and celebrates in these gorgeous poems.