“A Murder of Crows Descended, Displacing An Exultation of Larks: Poems,” by Dave Morrison; Soul Finger Press, Camden, Maine, 2021; 56 pages, paperback, $12.99.

“Good, another reality check,” I thought when I got a copy of Dave Morrison’s new collection of poems, “A Murder of Crows Descended, Displacing An Exaltation of Larks,” on the heels of receiving Mike Bove’s life-as-we-know-it-based book “House Museum.”

Morrison’s ever-fascinated attention to the things of this world is so well-grounded, so vivid and so honestly expressed that I’m always reassured, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that someone else lives in the same reality I do. His world is ambiguous (“Last Day of Work”: “I bluffed my way into / this job”); heartbreaking (“Our Flower Girl”: how did she grow up to be so “dull and mean”?); reassuring (“Best Time”: at 7:20 a.m. “the painters are next door” with their coffee, contemplating the coming workday); humbling (“Lost”: “getting over the anger / is like coming home / after being lost”); chronically painful (“Unbreak My Heart”: “How do I unwreck / myself?”).

In this collection (his 16th), the principal threads involve uncertainty, ambivalence, and different occasions for forgiveness, including self-forgiveness (“Morning”: “Every day I think disaster will / come and every day I am / wrong”) and complicated family forgiveness (“The Day after Mother’s Day”). These themes arise amid his perennial inability to bypass moments of beauty, which turns up in every possible nook and cranny:

 

… I have

muscle-memory of despair, so

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like my father never passing a

gas station without topping

off the tank, I collect bits of

peace and beauty wherever

and whenever I can

 

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He then turns these moments into poetry that for him (and me) has effects equivalent to music. In “Slip Away,” a poem about writing poems, he starts off tentatively using a line from an old Clarence Carter R&B song, then amid the associations the music inspires, confronts his own limitations as a poet and expresses gratitude to David Kirby “for writing poems that don’t / smell like mothballs or MFA / receipts.” When reality seems adrift, bounce it off the music, where its inherent beauty will take shape.

Dave Morrison is both an accomplished musician <https://www.islandinstitute.org/working-waterfront/homing-in-on-dave-morrison/> and a sort of Socrates among poets – dogged by his awareness of his own ignorance, and thereby wiser than the rest of us.

He lives in Camden, where he runs the opera house. His recent collections include “Blue,” “Refuge” and “Psalms.” “A Murder of Crows” is available through local and online book sellers.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first and third Fridays of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at [email protected].

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