In Our Situation, W. Luther Jett addresses both contemporary and timeless perils with heartbreak, anger, and hope. Poignant imagery as well as troubling current events create a narrative that weaves through our shared experience in thought-provoking and illuminating ways. In preparing to review this chapbook, I have read through it many times and each time leave with another insight, another take away, and a new favorite poem.
Luther masterfully crafts visually rich poetry that is also easily accessible. I find when reading I can’t help but share a poem or two with a friend and many lines call to me so powerfully that I want to write a poem. Just so I can use them in epigraphs.
Night sheds her feathers
of deepest blue
until the sea is covered.
I know what storms the mind is capable of daring
and never looking back to hark what follows,
the jog of boots, the dart of little knives.
from “Ice Dance”
I like to select a favorite poem when I read a book of them, but have a difficult time settling on one from Our Situation. So I choose three. Loving the sad love poems, an easy choice for me is “Epimenides,” in which Luther uses both idyllic and gritty imagery to unfold the speaker’s yearning to believe his girl, among the many who are not to be believed. Another favorite is “Migrations,” which paints the image that I suspect is ingrained in all of our memories of a child dead on the shore, making it a political poem, although made personal and tender. “December 29, 2016” is a lovely little ten line piece that calls to my mind Carl Sandburg and speaks both to expansive beauty and loss.
Our Situation addresses important themes. It may be considered a call to action. It may as easily be approached as beautiful words to feed our hearts. An easy chapbook to revisit, it seems to always offer new challenges. I leave another reading with a gentle nudge to remember to make the hard choices, and do the work to make it through these trying days, together.