Joy and Rage: Jeff Walt's The Danger in Everything
The Danger in Everything.|
Mad River Books, 2000.
60 pages, $12 (paperback).
The memory of a wound, years after the shock has worn off, is sharper than the cut itself. Jeff Walt's narrative poems are rich with the sharpness of beauty and violation, taking us deep into his life and those of his subjects—family and lovers. Walt is especially deft at creating scenes, landscapes of personal interaction, where every detail is potentially beautiful or terrifying and where there is particular emphasis on the vulnerability of children and the oppressive power of the memory of abuse or loss. While these scenes vary from memories of childhood experiences with siblings to visiting nephews and nieces to cutting his mother's hair, many are centered on sexual relationships and their aftermath.
Poets notice everything but call the reader's attention to only those details that advance the logic or mood of a particular poem.
I've learned to cherish the familiar:
the pond black and ominous,
the lichened bridge rotting,
a cluster of siskins and goldfinches
traveling together gather
in the pines, how, last night,
I dreamt you beside me and awoke
To realize—again—that you left.
So, where is the danger? Walt writes of the double edge of desire. In his starkly realistic world, the force that builds families and lifetime relationships also fuels abuse, violence and self-abasement. Walt has a gift for making us feel that danger in our own flesh.
He threatened to crush my skull
and I said I'd cut off his cock
as he beat me against the wall
like a rug full of dust.
The Danger in Everything is an outstanding effort for a first full-length collection. While there are the occasional inconsistencies expected from a young and passionate poet, there is every reason to expect Jeff Walt to make a significant contribution to the poetry of our time.