September 9-15, 2013
I know many people who write, several of them very beautifully. In the recent years, some of them have chosen to bravely pursue this unsure path in their daily lives; to live as writers. The people I know who choose to write do so not because they expect it to be lucrative (let’s face it, there’s only a limited number of those big prizes, and no one can win every year), but because they feel called to examine the surrounding world in this particular way (at least that’s part of it). While researchers in developing scientific fields tend to push us forward by examining smaller and smaller elements of the physical world writers often move us forward by illuminating for us the larger themes of our existence – they observe and then explain or re-explain the world to us.
David Winter, a friend and one of these brave broke souls, recently published a beautiful collection of such observations and illuminations. When he put out feelers, I leapt on the chance to read and review Safe House (published by Thrush Press a little earlier in 2013), not only because the author is a friend, but because I have had much joy both in speaking with this insightful person, and in reading other, earlier poems.
Having had the privilege of knowing him for many years now, I expected even before beginning to read his chapbook that David’s poems would take their form in balance, and indeed they do: the poems somehow find a fulcrum in a space that occupies both violence and compassion. They are gentle poems, but unafraid to illustrate for their readers some of the complicated questions we seem to face so often we hardly realize it – questions, for example, about how we treat those we love, especially after we love them, when we have entered that odd space that we tend to call “moving on.”
Yet David’s poems are not limited to relationships of the romantic sort, many of them address relationships encompassed in duality. In the poem “Parole” (nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2012), David writes incisively, with a tender understanding, about the complicated relationship between prison and home, the dual nature of freedom. In the poem “Genesis 22:2” he probes the notions of family and sacrifice; this poem is set contrastingly beside a shorter poem, “Photograph Taken After She Burned The Others,” which brings back a few of the same images, but in the context of romantic love, and ends by summoning images of both romantic and familial love (“Young swans…/…watchful parents.”)
The arrangement of Safe House as a whole speaks to David’s gift for comparison: his skill at placing unexpected things beside one another so that each illuminates something about the next. Perhaps they were not conceived as a collection, but because of the light they shed upon one another, the poems are utterly successful arranged in this way. This is a book in which the author frequently mentions voice, particularly in terms of finding his own. And yet this is a voice that does not falter as it gathers together the many different types of threads the poet has spun.