Two months ago I was approached by Diane Smith, the founding editor of Grey Sparrow/River Otter Press (who published my book), about editing a book of poetry that she was considering publishing. I agreed, and within the hour I had an eighty page poetry manuscript with a familiar name on it — Simon Perchik.
Simon Perchik is an American poet who has been writing poetry since the 1960s. And when I say he’s been writing, I mean writing: with over 20 books credited to his name, he is one of the most widely published and prolific poets of our day. Repositories of his work and correspondence reside in the Library of Congress Rare Book Collection, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection at Yale, and the Avant Writing Collection at Ohio State University. In short, he’s a pretty big deal.
And I got to edit his work. Talk about pressure.
Themes of loss, loneliness, and longing are prominent in Perchik’s work, which thrusts the reader into a world of turmoil somehow still filled with beauty. What the poet accomplishes best is the conveyance of mood — to read one of these poems is to become one with the speaker; to feel the his pain, his joy. To put it bluntly, Perchik is the kind of poet that I one day hope to be. His poetry is the kind of poetry that someone can read, and reread, and reread and come away with a different interpretation each time; a new layer.
This poem, from the end of the book, is emblematic of the rest of the work within the monograph:
These waves still surface, not sure
it’s her lips that open and close, kept moist
though you can’t hear her voice
scented with rotting wood, weeds
and bottom sand—you row this boat
left, right, swinging your arms
half moonlight, half almost makes out
the words rising from empty shells
and the dress you first saw her in
—you need more arms, clear summer nights
from that inch by inch love song
heavier than these overgrown paths
no longer listening for her forehead
that once anchored the Earth
and water too knows what it has
reeling from a gentle stroke, another
another, facing the sky
it leaves behind, caressing her hair
her breasts, her shimmering—some nights
you can hear her, one by one
—some nights it’s colder, colder.
If you’re a reader of poetry looking for a book that capitalizes on over 40 years of training and practice — a careful honing of skills — then this is the book for you. It is a collection by a poet at the pinnacle of his career; a lifetime of expertise distilled into one beautiful tome. And to top it all off, it’s accompanied by the haunting art of Peter Ciccariello, who’s artwork has been featured in such notable publications as Poetry Magazine and the cover of Rae Armantrout’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning book, Versed.
Some say that life begets life. I say that poetry begets poetry. Pick up a copy of Almost Rain today and bring some poetry into your life!