“Stones and other poems” by Thomas R. Moore; Moon Pie Press, Westbrook, Maine, 2021; 80 pages, paperback, $15.

“Stones and other poems” by Thomas R. Moore; Moon Pie Press, Westbrook, Maine, 2021; 80 pages, paperback, $15.

The poems in Thomas Moore’s new collection, “Stones,” hike trails that will be familiar to his followers. We get his impressions of early morning Belfast streets and pathsin a section titled “Local Roads”; of his Massachusetts boyhood and on-the-road young adulthood (“The Red Shed”); and of what poetry does (“Moon”). But in this new book, maybe he’s gotten to the bottom of it all, or at least to the bottom of the bottomlessness. Either that or I’m just now understanding him after a dozen or so years of reading his accomplished verse.

The imagery in “Stones” is characteristically sharp. In the “Local Roads” section, “Monkey Fist Dreams” concludes: “At 4 a.m. I prowl the harbor: a tug / idling, the rattle of gear, the skulk of day.” Further on, the recollections are as acute as they were in his other books “Chet-Sawing,” “The Bolt-Cutters” <https://bangordailynews.com/2011/01/23/living/postwar-american-life-evoked-by-brooksville-poet/> “Saving Nails” and “Red Stone Fragments.” He finds the past in the present in“Shoveling the Driveway with My Father’s Ghost.” He ironically connects a Walt Whitman-like moment from his Peace Corps stint in bubbling, effervescent Mali to the dismal political present in “Shit-hole Country.” And in the “Moon” section, “The Brain Tries to Forget” observes: “I write poems / to lever the trunks / to the attic stairs and / spill the tumult down / for all to view.” This seems to be center of the vortex.

Early on, in the Eastport cemetery, he reports: “I sleepwalk / through dreams of former lives.” This is where we’re going in the book – to former, as well as present lives.In “Shards,” a recollection of moments in Iran, Turkey and Greece: “whatever scorches into permanence, smolders or / decays, but never washes out”. Soon it becomes clear that what doesn’t wash out is the emotions: “little grows / from ashes but poems.” And poems are not cures. Remembering a death-haunted friend of 50 years ago: “Words cannot unravel / the havoc left inside.”

These are all iterations of the observation in the closing lines of “The Brain Tries to Forget”:

… Poems



may unstop

blockage or scrub


the inner skull, but

do not purge



the heart, or blur

whatever’s true



This is Tom Moore’s version of a hammer blow that Ezra Pound delivered a hundred years or so ago about poetry, and that so many poets and professors of the 20th and 21st centuries forgot, ignored or never understood: “Only emotion endures.” What Moore reveals is that the enduring component of life is in emotion. That emotion literally endures in your nervous system, and literally connects the past and present. And words don’t change or remedy that fact of life.

Maybe that’s what he ‘s been saying all along, and I’m just now seeing it. But it seems to have come crystal clear in this collection of poems by one of Maine’s most skillful, most authentically real-life-grounded poets of the turn of the millennium.

Thomas R. Moore, 80, is retired from teaching at Maine Maritime Academy and now lives in Belfast with his wife, artist and poet Leslie Moore. “Stones” is available through local book stores and Moon Pie Press.

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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