Review by Julie Carpenter
Jeff Weddle’s new book of poetry, Citizen Relent, is the poet at his most prophetic, calling out the inevitable at the cliff’s edge. As always, Jeff finds caches of hope and beauty as he feels the long sure pull of death. The poems consider the material realities of the present, the possibilities for hope and despair in the future, and the images and stories of the past from which we construct our own narratives.
There are poems grounded in concrete observation that somehow reflect an exact turn of mind, like Perfecto,with lines like,
Smoke hangs solid
like skin burns
Or Please Pay Attention, which exhorts the reader to use the present because
The stars are waiting,
And they have no sympathy for your weakness
But the present is gone by the time the poet acknowledges it. Blessed Land, which uses a future trip to Spain as a metaphor for death, is grounded in the present, with a narrator who still feels the future at a distance, but not at a comfortable one. There are also apocalyptic glimpses into the future, with poems like Twilight and In the End, mixed with signposts from the present that give us a glimpse of our wrong turnings on the way to dystopia, like Charlottesville, and Evangelical.
Only the past is disinfected enough to feel even a little safe. In poems like Buttercup and T-Bone and Eternal, the poet collects snippets of his past self as though he is finding a few precious stones in a pile of gravel. More than anything else I’ve read lately, this book feels like the passing of time, or a warning that time is indeed moving and perhaps to a bad end. He calls out the wrong turns on the path that may lead to disaster, feels that disaster can’t be avoided, then makes a certain gloomy peace with it. Oddly though, the sense of darkness distilled in these poems functions more like a vaccine to inoculate us from despair than to cause it.
As always, I can’t recommend Jeff’s books highly enough. Read this one and then go and get the others!