Colin Winborn suggested that I might enjoy Shannon Tharp’s The Cost Of Walking (Skysill Press, 2011) and he was right!
This thoughtful collection, which begins with an H.D. preface, ‘Better the wind, the sea, the salt, / in your eyes, / than this, this, this’, references the possibilities of loss by not confronting the weather, the unseen and unknown. In a series of succinct meditative poems, Tharp gestures towards other approaches and possibilities in any movement between two points. The poems balance short suggestive, philosophical, statements with a concrete imagery gravitated around the weather, felt as both physical and psychological, and travel.
In conditions less
what I make out through
rain – happening a-
gain in a
slow diagonal –
white hearse, green graveyard,
save for what isn’t.
Tharp avoids the pitfalls of pure abstraction by centering the poems within a knowing inner voice, and conversely avoids the downside of subjectivity by looking outwards through distance and separation. The narrator is aware of division, of the split self, of things falling between, of small movements. The short, often understated, poems expand outwards by means of a few words, whereas the longer poems, such as ‘Chasing Landmarks’, ‘Travelogue’, ‘Practice’, dedicated to Jack Spicer, and ‘High Rise’ impact cumulatively and succinctly. The book is a feast of composite layering, as in for example, ‘Morning (With William Bronk)’ which starts ‘The world, what we took / for the world, / is breaking. Breaking!’ and ends ‘And we are / equally alive.’ One feels blessed to encounter such acute brevity and depth. This is compelling and strong poetry.
The collection coheres and beguiles in equal measurement.
It is a remarkable achievement.
David Caddy January 16th 2014