Clark Coolidge, 88 Sonnets

Year

2014

Fence Books, 2013

Well into his seventies, Coolidge continues to construct a body of poetry that delights, as Auden would say, "in the valley of its making." Coolidge's sonnets create a space where the mind can follow its own fits and leaps in full freedom. A poem like "Yo Doorload!," for example, moves from the title's casual callout to a place of caretaking and then threat-making in the span of five lines:

Couple days and we’ll have you all sewn up you should have brought a doll of that dog in the first place this town doesn't have time they never voted for that treatment hey Crawdad I’ll wait over here you'll wait where I say

As his sonnets accumulate and begin to speak to one another across pages, Coolidge's traveling circus of names and places, from "Gyro Gearloose" to "Doctor Seize" to "the Abode of the Snow Apes," becomes a kind of secret society within an imagination that refuses to prohibit anyone admittance. This welcoming embrace of the mind's ghosts and dalliances amounts to a remarkable intimacy in Coolidge's latest collection, even if we don’t know how to answer when he asks, "but do you understand what I’m not saying?" This review was published in American Poet, Volume 44, Spring 2013.