“Psalms”

 

 

Dave Morrison’s most recent collection of poems, “Psalms,” published this summer, is somewhat of a departure from much of his previous poetry. His 11 previous collections often feature narratives and ruminations on life that can stretch across two or three pages. But the 100 poems in “Psalms” are all pared for compactness — “small exclamations,” as he characterized them to me, with the longest one here just 27 lines.

What does not change in “Psalms” is the energy. Morrison’s poetry is marked by the same kind of power that floods through good rock and roll — and naturally so, as before he turned his primary attention to poems, he spent the best part of three decades as a rock musician in New England and New York. His poetry is an extension of the same project, in some ways, and the music — and ideas — in his lines of verse pack similar kicks. It’s explicit in Psalm 9:

I’m dreaming of a

flute, or a saxophone,

I’m standing on a beach

at dusk playing one

long note as purely

as I can, listening as

it echoes off the cliffs.

Some things seem

permanent, others,

not.

The beautiful turn of the last three lines is a good example of the way the world’s layers occur to this poet’s sensibility.

“Psalms,” true to its biblical allusion, is in a way an expression of a sense of grace, as it’s Morrison’s first collection since his bout with throat cancer three years ago. The poems that emerged in his “Cancer Poems” collection from that episode were one thing; “Psalms” marks another phase of a different kind of clarity whose energy is truly healthy to absorb.

Dave Morrison lives in Camden. “Psalms” is available through online book sellers and midcoast book shops.

“The Bragdon Hill Affair: Poems & Photos”

Also well worthy of note is Robert Chute’s most recent collection, “The Bragdon Hill Affair.” Chute, who lives at Bragdon Hill in Poland Spring, is one of Maine’s most accomplished poets of the Maine woods, and possibly its most senior. A World War II veteran and retired professor of biological sciences at Bates College, Chute has been writing poetry seriously (and playfully) since the 1950s and has won accolades in Maine’s poetry world, including the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance Distinguished Achievement Award for 2011.

“The Bragdon Hill Affair” brings together poems and color photos made by Chute over the last 20 years or so of excursions in the woods and fields around his home. The photos are illuminating for their uncanny accuracy to what you actually see — or at least, what I see — when wandering around in the woods. They’re beautiful but unadorned: as compact as icy moose tracks, as stark as Bragdon Hill in the distance, as remote as lily of the valley growing from the crack in a gray boulder — things you’ve seen a thousand times, but never yet had a poem to light them up. “Fern Ecdysis,” together with a sweet image of green fiddleheads, goes in its entirety:

The girl

plucks her earrings off

the whole world whirls

the green fiddlehead’s

compression

of the fern’s impression

of the Spring unwinding

out of buds scales

petals from

time-lapse flowers

she draws her gloves off

taking hours

Spring

requires patience too.

If, like Thoreau, you “believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright,” then you’re on Bob Chute’s wavelength and you should pick up a copy of this book. Its presence will refresh you when you need it. Which I’m guessing you probably do, these days.

Chute’s books include “Wildness Within Walking Distance” and “Excuse for Being Here: Life among Thoreau’s Reflections,” a memoir in poetry and prose among others. “The Bragdon Hill Affair” is available from Just Write Books and online book sellers.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first Thursday of each month. Contact Dana Wilde at [email protected].