I’ve been a fan of Michael Campagnoli’s poetry for years, though I don’t get to see it often because it appears mostly in small literary journals and magazines that are off my radar. The first book of his that came my way was “Ah-Meddy-Ga” (2005), a sort of homage to American immigrants and outsiders shaped especially on the experience and character of his grandfather; I was knocked out by the clarity and particularity of the voices in it. “Penobscot Voices: Kikukus”(2009), based on Campagnoli’s firsthand knowledge of Penobscot and Passamaquoddy people, I found similarly striking. His ear is remarkable.

His new chapbook, “The Home Stretch,” tells in 23 discreet lyric poems the dreamlike story of a young woman whose daily jogging routine carries her along midcoast Maine roads and landscapes, with the natural beauty and mysteries deeply familiar to those of us who live here. But this woman, Anna, is also rent by familial wounds so deep they emerge in her life as events of uncertain reality. They are so latent to her being that they appear merely as suggestions only late in the cycle of poems.

And to be clear, these poems form a “cycle,” not a straight narrative. The story emerges the way the plot of a long, bewildering dream emerges — mostly in retrospect. Each poem is its own flicker of reality — a fox in car headlights, a frightening drive in a car, the shriek and cry of loons, a “rat-faced man” who appears and disappears and may or may not be real, a dream or a threatening, shadowy figment. The poems, and the images and events in them, arise and subside in swells of David Lynch-like gothic fear — “He was out there. // Waiting. / Watching. // Lurking in the woods” — and beauty — “the calm relief of open fields / the long-blue gouda-whiteness / of the river-freezing moon.”

Gorgeous, well-wrought poetic lines carrying imagery bordering on Jungian territory. This is a little book you can read over and over and never reach bottom.

Michael Campagnoli lives in Rockland. His poetry has been widely published in small magazines and has won several awards, including the All Nations Press Chapbook Award. “The Home Stretch” has been nominated for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Milt Kessler Award for poetry. It’s available through Unsolicited Press’s website and online book sellers.

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

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