“Wayward Shadow”

By Bruce Holsapple

La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, N.M.

November 2013

174 pages, trade paperback, $16

 

Bruce Holsapple moved out of Maine long ago, but his connections here have never flagged, socially, literarily or historically. And so it’s well worth mentioning that he’s got a new book of poetry that’s well worth a look.

Holsapple grew up in Dexter, and was part of a vortex of literary energy at the University of Maine in the late 1960s that included professor Burton Hatlen (a skillful poet himself who died in 2008) and Jim Bishop, of Bangor, and which participant Stephen King lovingly mentions in his book “On Writing.” In the 1970s Holsapple went to Portland and founded Contraband magazine, Maine’s first significant contribution to the poetry of America’s counterculture.

After that it was all, as Robert Frost put it, the road less traveled. He carved out a life as an itinerant poet and sometime scholar who returns to Maine regularly and remains connected to the scene through his Vox Audio recordings of Maine writers, including Hatlen, Bishop and Lee Sharkey, of Farmington, among others. Eventually he landed a job as a speech therapist in New Mexico, where he lives now, intensively writing 45 years and nine collections later.

His newest book, “Wayward Shadow,” is really a continuation of his 2011 book “Vanishing Act: Poems,” an exploration of everyday consciousness. This phrase might send up a warning flag to some readers of impending apocalyptic boredom. In the wrong hands — of which there are many in contemporary literature — “everyday consciousness” could imply a concatenation of path-beaten cliches on today’s aches, pains and slights and yesterday’s childhood resentments. But that’s not what’s going on here.

“Wayward Shadow” shapes a fascinating buildup of perceptions, observations and honest assessments of what’s on your mind from minute to minute — the thoughts thought, emotions emoted, pleasures, pains and problems perceived and parsed. “What’s taking place right now,” one poem lucidly specifies, “is ‘you.’”

 

What does any life amount to

What could you possibly do

What’s immediately in front of you is all

sun dizzy rock sky feet

 

An unlooked-for characteristic of this book, like its predecessor, is that in its attention to the details of the mind’s silent meanderings from moment to moment, it generates a momentum that carries forward almost like a plot. Memories of dead friends, found books, lost girlfriends, bare apartments, desert highs and Portland lows are triggered, registered, sketched in words and moved out for the next mental mountain range of the day. It’s a phenomenology of consciousness as it actually flows.

I’ve never read anything else like this and when I settle in with it, I find it hard to put down. You get the feeling that, true to Socrates’ suggestion, the examined life is well worth living.

“Wayward Shadow” is available online through the publisher and Amazon,com.

 

Dana Wilde writes the Backyard Naturalist column for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel and runs the Parallel Uni-Verse website for Maine poetry at www.dwildepress.net/universe. You can contact him at [email protected]