Jeff Weddle’s poetry is always about America – even when it’s about the guy next door or a reflective moment drinking coffee. The cover of this book is adorned with a picture of a patriotic parade float, surely brightly colored in its own spot on the timeline, but faded into memory behind a nostalgic tea stained patina. The photo is a taste of what rests between the covers, an acknowledgement that the fabled country born of the coupling of memory with patriotic optimism does not live up to the concrete reality experienced by individual humans struggling to find their place in it.
It’s a book of unsettling observations, whether in broad strokes or in the quiet distilled moments of life, but still it has its odd moments of hope. Weddle’s poetry is often deceptively unadorned, but there is depth in the simplicity. Like your favorite song, most of the poetry is so true every secret revealed is one that you already knew, if only you had thought to look for it.
Weddle is superb at catching something larger in concrete and familiar details in poems like You Know Her or Glory. But he is unafraid of the surreal in poems like After Everything Else Happened, which begins the book with the lines:
Sometime later the sky opened
things fell upon us
upon the streets and houses
upon the cars and movie theaters
upon the old women with canes
and their idiot husbands
Weddle weaves the experiences of loners, suburban fathers, the down and out, and even Faulkner and Hemingway, into the experience of the nation as a whole and even though the poems may seem unconnected at first glance, they form a surprisingly penetrating and cohesive picture of America, revealing more with each reading. The book is highly recommended.