EDITOR'S PICK — BookLife / Publishers Weekly

Superlative Book”

This third collection from Loftus (
Fireflies) finds the poet turning his considerable observational powers onto the everyday, including a visit to an Asian market, a woman reading at a truck stop, a dog gazing at the night sky, and a trophy’s “golden boy / preening on a shelf.” An early standout pays gently comic tribute to a pair of hands muddling through a piano exercise, the rhythm and polish of the final couplet more satisfying than the musical performance: “hand by hand in double time, the right ahead, the left behind,” he writes. The precision of that line exemplifies Loftus’s work. Again and again, he celebrates, with quiet exactitude, the pleasure in a job done right: backing up a trailer; jacking a car up “just the way the Chilton says”; “or the boatwright / scraping hulls, mixing varnish / to brush his world, / all alone in his boneyard cold.”

Occasional inspired echoes (his “See the swan unfurl herself” brings to mind Elizabeth Bishop’s “a heron may undo his head”) will keep readers on their toes, and some inspired play casts new light on the familiar.

The dazzling “Fisher of Men” finds fresh meaning in the phrase from Matthew 4:19, asking “After all, what are we?” before contemplating our essence in short, sculpted lines whose individual meanings coalesce into something grander: “Salt, wet, / departure, return, / repeated show / of quick, slow, / still, churning, /descending, ascent /”. The idea, slippery yet powerful, surges on from there, though it’s tempting to double back and revisit the earlier words with the later ones in mind.

Loftus’s work rewards but does not demand that kind of careful attention. He’s adept at evocative yet concrete detail (the “Skoal cans, and shorty Buds” of men out boating) and always imbues a concluding line or couplet with memorable insight, a savvy double meaning, or even a punchline. Autumn offers crisp, memorable verse, but also the opportunity to see what Loftus sees.

These inspired poems celebrate precision and seeing.

—BookLife / Publishers Weekly, 2021

Deeply thoughtful and satisfyingly unpretentious poems.”

Loftus, who previously wrote
Dress Whites (2018), repeatedly marries the heady with the mundane in this sophomore poetry collection.

There are a number of paradoxes attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Zeno. Perhaps the most famous involves the supposed impossibility of motion: To get to any point, one must travel half of the way to it. To continue one’s journey, one must then go half the remaining distance, or one-quarter of the original trip. This pattern continues, but because there’s no line so small that it can’t be bisected, one will never reach one’s destination. Loftus’s poem “Zeno’s Paradox” takes this arcane thought experiment and gives it flesh and blood, reimagining it in terms of a man waiting for a lover who will never arrive: “He waits. For her. To enter, shut the door. /... / She’s still walking—to the broken steps, / sagging porch and flapping door, / the table, couch, his brazen, smelly hold— / as fast as he may summon her, / as slow as I implore, / she will take forever.”

Thus does the author recast the philosophical as the poignant, simultaneously offering a new take on Zeno himself.

He does something similar in “Camus sur le Pont,” whose title alludes to the French novelist’s 1956 book-length reflection on responsibility and abdication,
The Fall: “A body strikes the water / so different after dark, / as if an exit / were an entrance, / below, above, at once, / parting a black mirror, / a looking glass of stars.” Camus’ book is about a suicide on the Seine, but Loftus adroitly (and devilishly) shifts readers’ focus away from the falling woman to the water, which swallows the body impassively.

These unexpected shifts in perspective are Loftus’s stock in trade, and they infuse his deceptively straightforward poetry with depth and texture.

Deeply thoughtful and satisfyingly unpretentious poems.

Kirkus Reviews, 2020

A compellingly emotional collection...Titles that launch his lines of inquiry from the highest peaks.”

A debut book of earthy, elegiac poetry.

In this work, Loftus draws on imagery from the natural environment to paint a picture of his speaker’s turbulent inner life and the calming hum of his surroundings. In three parts, he presents scenes in which the speaker faces not only nature, but history—be it his own or humanity’s—in instances of daily life:

“At the bookstore / in the discard bin / among the sonnets, / it occurred to me: / I missed her.” Moments of vulnerability punctuate the poems, whether it’s a feeling that catches the speaker by surprise or when a sparrow tries relentlessly to survive: “I heaped seeds around / her clutching feet. Absurdly, / you might think”; “her prescient eye still / turned toward mine, / her silent mouth / singing to my bones.” However, Loftus is doing something other than merely pointing out the things that surround his speaker.

By extracting the details that make up the big picture, the author comments on the interconnectedness of social and natural life. His poems evoke the greater romantic lyric, in which a landscape becomes the mind and the poem, a psycho-geographical description. Using maritime allusions, the author hints at the changing symbolic function of water as it relates to aging: “the natural wet / of water / it one day will press, / but glimmering wet, / adolescent, / a thing that knows / no lover yet.” Although poets have mined similar subject matter for centuries, Loftus gives it a brief update, with original line breaks, self-reflexive use of pronouns, and titles that launch his lines of inquiry from the highest peaks: “Every word he rhymed between / slippery purple carbon sheets / so not just he or I would see / but all would know his splendor.” Ultimately, the author offers readers a poetic climate that builds momentum until it finally reaches the present and understanding.

A compellingly emotional collection.

Kirkus Reviews, 2018

RICHARD GILMORE LOFTUS had a nomadic upbringing, spending time in the Midwest, Greenwich Village, Dublin, and Mallorca; in later years, finding his way to South Africa and Rwanda. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin–Madison with degrees in English literature and history. Loftus lives and writes in Michigan, where he enjoys playing piano and violin, walking with his dog, and building wooden boats.

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