Catalog-Sheffield, Derek

A MOUTHPIECE OF THUMBS

Long before I saw one
I heard a loon
in my cousin’s hands
cupped to his lips–willow.
He tried to teach me how
flesh could find one shape.
I hoped and hoped
into a mouthpiece of thumbs
but the air was empty.

from The Call

These crafted and well-made poems are built to last, but their first impulse comes from a deeper and lonelier place–read more authentic–sitting down to read this book that arrives with the most daring title. Sheffield is not afraid of it. It is part of the gift that comes with the calling to be poet in the first poem, The Calling . Poets in this culture aren’t installed as are the spiritually institutionalized clergy who may, or may not be, called. Sheffield knows all this, of course, accepting beggar’s bowl and long apprenticeship–Creeley-like–that goes with it. This is the way this book should be read–and for poets starting out–why. Read the titles: Singular, Oystermen, Something Wakes You, How We Look, The Farthest Life . Not a dangerous vocation? The Hell you say. Try this one: Why They Gave Me the Bike . –Jim Bodeen

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