“What does this mean?” my wife said, holding up a yellow sticky note that was tacked to the cover of my copy of “Welcome Homesick” by Dave Morrison. The handwriting said simply, “I know, I know …”

I laughed and said, “I think he means this is his second collection of new poems in six months, and he knows it seems like a bit much.”

The previous collection, “Psalms,” came out last summer, following an uncharacteristic hiatus of two years after the publication of “Cancer Poems,” which vividly depicted the poet’s battle with throat cancer. The poems in “Psalms” were “small exclamations” of joy and gratitude after that crisis, he said last summer.

Well, joy and gratitude have characterized all of Morrison’s poetry, really, along with other practically palpable feelings such as bewilderment, awe, frustration, exhilaration, dejection, bemusement and authentic old-fashioned kidlike wonder, to name a few. The same ingredients are not missing from “Welcome Homesick,” so this collection too is well worth looking into on a rainy Saturday or even a sunny Monday. But publishing it straight on the heels of “Psalms” is not a bit much at all, and I’ll tell you why.

These poems, to my mind, reveal an advance in the poet’s technical mastery of the language. His poetry — with roots in rock and roll songwriting — has always had unusual rhythmic coherence despite its chatty, man-on-the-street straightforwardness of diction. But the lines throughout “Welcome Homesick” are harder-edged and more precise than ever, both in rhythm and syntax. The first stanza of “Freezing Rain”:

Freezing rain, then just plain rain

bare branches through the skylight bend

and smear, the air is dank and still

jazz drummer plays with small light sticks

I’m ready for a glass of red and

a line that could become a poem.

Characteristic Morrison exhilaration is present all through the assonances and beats of these lines, not to mention the deftly assembled paratactic imagery of rain, drumming and wine. Beautiful, and this beauty goes on throughout the book. E.g., “Weightless”:

She discovered, when he got

sick, that she could move

through the house weightless,

like a ninja, or a burglar, she

could open and close doors

silently, subsist on fewer

meals, reduce her imprint

to almost nothing. They were

both, in their own ways,

practicing to be ghosts.

He was right to let us in on this enhanced music immediately.

In a couple of years, it will be time for the governor to appoint the sixth Maine state poet laureate, and I really think this is the kind of constructive, upbeat energy we’ll be wanting. So I’m pre-nominating Dave Morrison now.

Morrison lives in Camden. His poems have appeared in 12 previous collections, in many small magazines and anthologies and on the “Writer’s Almanac” radio show. He’s appeared on the “Writers Forum” program of WERU radio in Blue Hill, hosted the “Have Poems, Will Travel” show on WRFR-FM in Rockland and given performances of his poetry widely in Maine, including at the Camden Opera House where he keeps a day job. “Welcome Homesick” is available from midcoast book shops 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].

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