Asking The Names. Michael Miller. The Ashland Poetry Press. Ashland University. Ashland, Ohio. 2017.
Michael Miller writes time machine poetry. These poems are completely in the present, poignant, powerful and in the best sense of the word; pretty. At the same time these poems are about the passage of time and what is endured, what is learned, what is savoured, what is mourned.
Miller also has the rare capacity to write openly about enduring love without ever sounding overly romantic or trite.
In the wordless void between us
The domain of silence
Is greater than anything we can say.
This is where love becomes
A meadow blossoming,
This is where I can hold you
Beyond the ephemeral touch,
Beyond the unfolding petals of desire
Which must always close.
Miller's short poems have the qualities of fine crystal, they are transparent so any flaws would be immediately obvious.
If you were to ping one on the side with your finger, the resonance you hear will be a fully formed tone, abundant in colour regardless of it's brevity.
Prepared at exactly five o'clock,
Placed carefully before her
On their immaculate table,
The meals he makes
For his paralyzed wife
Are the language of enduring love.
With spotless silverware
He feeds her with every morsel
Of his patient tenderness.
Asking The Names made for a contemplative morning read at the Today's book of poetry offices. It's another beautiful sunny day so we have all the doors and windows open. It shouldn't come as any surprise that this morning's office music is a mix of Dexter and Pharoah.
Mr. Miller supplied his robust poems and his delicate voice. These are intensely personal and studiously carefully poems that remind Today's book of poetry of the best of Wendell Berry and Robert Bly. Poems like these require a mature voice and considerable time in the saddle, wisdom like this only comes with time and experience.
Beethoven and biopsies,
How they keep me alive,
How making love with you
Keeps me alive,
How I want to make love
For as long as I can,
How I want your body
To cover mine
As I take that final breath.
Asking The Names wanders through the fields and adventures of youth, the horrors and memory scars of military service, battle and loss but it is Miller's unabashed tenderness when talking about his love that has won the day for Today's book of poetry.
As Dexter Gordon's Dale Turner says in the great Bertrand Tavernier film Round Midnight, "Lady Francis, there's not enough kindness in the world." Today's book of poetry is happy to report that Michael Miller is helping to improve that balance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Miller's first book The Joyful Dark was the Editor's Choice winner of the McGovern Prize at The Ashland Poetry Press. His poems have appeared in The Sweanee Review, The Kenyon Review, Raritan, The New Republic, The Southern Review, and The Yale Review. Darkening The Grass, his third book, was a "Must Read 2013" selection of The Massachusetts Book Award. His poem, "The Different War," was the 2014 First Prize winner of the W.B. Yeats Society Poetry Award, and anthologized in Yeats 150 (Lilliput Press, Dublin). Born in 1940, Michael Miller served in the Marine Corps from 1958 to 1962. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
I read Michael Miller's poems with great pleasure in their accurate seeing, their assured phrasing, their true and proportionate feeling.
- Richard Wilbur
Michael Miller's poems are finely tuned meditations on nature, war, city life, and growing old. The recurring theme of love, the cycles of light and darkness, of fear and hope, of life and death, echo from poem to poem. One realizes reading these poems that one must climb to get into the light, that certainty is uncertain.
- Gary Lee Entsminger
Michael Miller's poetry addresses the nuances of this contradictory world. In Asking The Names his empathy embraces the pain of soldiers and the poignant lives of the elderly. Most moving, perhaps, is when he writes about enduring love. Miller's poems, each expertly wrought, are radiant.
- Nikia Leopold
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