The poetry aisle of any given bookstore is a special place.
For me, the poetry aisle of Powell’s Books is particularly special. I have gone there after funerals just to center myself, to smell the books, read some poems and feel better about the world. I have gone there to buy books for loved ones, for girlfriends, for other poets. A year ago I was getting a couple fillings done at the dentist and I went and stood in the poetry aisle both before the Novocain and after the horrible drilling. Poetry aisles make me feel safe; make me feel like the world is doing a good job of being kind and interesting.
Another exciting aspect of a poetry aisle is the chance that you might bump into another reader of poetry or, even luckier, a poet! This happened to me a few months back. I bumped into the poet John Brehm, the author of Sea of Faith, which won the 2004 Brittingham Prize in poetry. John had just moved to Portland from New York City and we had an immediate connection. John is an intelligent, incredibly talented, poet. Which makes us lucky! Lucky to bump into him and especially lucky because his second book, Help Is on the Way, is newly out from University of Wisconsin Press. Reading these new poems you can understand why the book received the 2012 Four Lakes Prize in Poetry. These poems are ecstatic songs, human tunes, being sung in a tone of honesty that makes you want to sing yourself. In his poem “Full Circle” john writes of a “dog-eared book of days left open on the table/ by a window where wind turns its pages/ because that’s what winds like to do”. For me, Help is on The Way has been that book of days, and like the wind I have turned its pages over and over.
As the last hours of National Poetry Month get ever closer let me suggest that you be the wind as well and pick up a copy of John Brehm’s book. You will no doubt dog-ear every page of it.