Chapbook, Jan Zwicky, 36 pgs, Vallum Society for Arts & Letters Education, vallummag.com, $10
Nearly all of the poems in this collection are reprinted from previous releases, and there was no shortage of material to choose from — Jan Zwicky is an award winning writer and philosopher with a lengthy bibliography. For this chapbook, she’s assembled a set of poems that are inspired by or are about music.
Several of these poems are titled with, or make mention of a particular classical composition. One need not be familiar with the tunes in question to follow along, but pianist Bruce Vogt, who penned the introduction to String Practice, suggests that if you are, you’ll find that Zwicky’s verses “emanate from the music physically and aurally; and in its turn, the poem invokes the piece from which it springs.”
It’s a believable compliment; Zwicky plays words like they’re an instrument. You’d be hard pressed to find someone who employs metaphor and simile more frequently and eloquently than Zwicky does. Her writing is packed with both — always apt and never obscure — and she continually manages to find connections between events that seem so disparate that you have to wonder if anyone who came before her had even considered the association: “you are thinking / of your childhood, your long-dead father, or not / thinking so much as letting them / nudge up against you, boats / moored at the same dock on a still night.” (Scott Bryson)