Infused with sensory detail that compels readers to feel, not merely ponder, a particular time and place, the poetry in James Harmon Clinton’s debut collection mines most of the corners of his life. Love, family, and exile are among his dominant themes, but throughout, a voice continually raises the central issue of justice, rightness, and fairness, especially to the past. Just as its title is both a question and an answer, the collection itself is both a pensive exploration and a bold declaration.
Clinton’s poems are confessional, at times accusatory, but seldom judgmental. The majority of the poems focus on relationships, both with the past and with others. A father dies prematurely, leaving the protagonist to question the memory of his voice; however, the mother endures and her voice never waivers, even in forecasting her own demise: “That’s me, Son. When I die I will be a bluebird; / I will sing in your backyard.”
With influences ranging from novelists and poets to scientists and song-writers, this thoughtful yet powerful collection is filled with depth and resonance as it traces the poet’s life journey. As his work reveals, that journey is both complete and continuing.
“Among the many first books published in the last few years, [Clinton's] is outstanding.”—James Dickey
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