The final stanza of the poem "In-Waiting," which adorns the back cover of Mud Ajar, encapsulates both what is enjoyable about Hiram
Larew's poetry and what can sometimes be frustrating:
"When I turn into twigs now/my sap dives deeper/and the claps/clap louder—/up to those winking drip-song/wisely eaves."
The imagery is striking and the personification of the tree—or the tree
-ification of the speaker—is a lovely metaphor for the poet and the poetic process. However, the use of an adverb, "wisely" to modify
"eaves" adds an element of confusion to an otherwise complex but comprehensible narrative.
This sort of wordplay is characteristic of Larew's poems and when it works, it is charming and compelling.
"The stars in your chest—/the sounds of their glow/their flash blink
wings/their touch top skies.//Spins you as nothing else can/as when magic comes true both inside and out.//With each and every star/so
over the moon." (From "Magic," the opening poem that works beautifully from beginning to end.)
"No matter what I do/I always miss a spot or two/and while I don't recall her whisper now/I tend to when/touching up" ("Touching Up.")
Read this passage aloud and take note of the rhythm , the ghost of pentameter lurking underneath.
"There must be more mes somewhere—/More twin trees out there waiting.//Like everknew or alwaysif/like hungup socks or curving
wings/My others live for windy days." ("Everif") The unusual compounding of phrases in the title and body of the poem might seem
gimmicky to some, but it works for me here as they suggest states of being, in addition to fortuitously echoing similar wordplay in the poetry of Paul Celan.
One can find many such passages in this collection, and searching them
out is well worth the time. As I alluded to above, the poems sometimes veer off into a kind of incomprehensible surrealism, but perhaps that's
a risk when attempting to use language in unique ways to present a view of the world as well as the poet's inner experience and relation to the world.
The final poem in the book is a stunner called "This If." Here's the third and final stanza:
"I fly this if/but also more/Where clouds love rakes/or fields are
curls/to forever where/Or haloes fling/may scattered firsts—this day that rings."
Not every poem reaches this height and some of the language is frankly
baffling, but when these poems work as with "This If," one's effort of reading is fully rewarded.
To acquire Mud Ajar, visit the press at https://atmospherepress.com/