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The Ledge: Poems by Michael Collier
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The Ledge: Poems (2000)

by Michael Collier

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618219102, Paperback)

The first poem in Michael Collier's fourth collection, The Ledge, suggests a difference between youthful readers and mature ones. The young read more quickly, as though they'll be asked to recount the plot highlights. Older readers relish the details, using literature to slide their own lives under the magnifying glass. "Argos" is an excellent prelude, which prepares us for The Ledge's roundabout insights and surprising truths.

Collier's poetry often addresses large-scale questions of faith--or at least questions that used to be large-scale and have now been deflated by ironic disbelief. Probably every century since the advent of Christianity has witnessed innumerable mock crucifixions, with girls pretending to hammer a boy onto a cross while he lolls his head "in that familiar / defeated way." In the past, the game might have provoked terror, or empathy, or at least awe at the sheer sinfulness of humans. In our era, however, the boy's penis stiffens comically, "like one of Satan's fingers":

I was dying a savior's death and yet
what my sisters called my "thing,"
struggled against extinction
as if its resurrection could not be held off
by this playful holy torture.
Using such sneaky, colloquial humor, Collier expertly discriminates between the rarefied thoughts we're supposed to have and the ones we actually have.

Elsewhere, Collier writes about the emotional burdens that fathers and sons are doomed to place on each other. In "The Hammer," an adult recalls losing his father's treasured hammer, and covering his tracks with a lie that has never fully vanished. "The Choice" finds a child struggling with a similar agony: is it better to dissemble or disappoint? Collier's voice in The Ledge is consistently that of one thoughtful, reasonable father talking to another--and maybe, some years from now, to the son who has finally become a father himself. --John Ponyicsanyi

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:08 -0400)

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