Civil Twilight

Ecco: HarperCollins. Oct. 2017. 104p. ISBN 9780062678980. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062678997. POETRY
Already the winner of National Poetry Series honors for 2013's What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask of Each Other, polished poet Schultz shows his craft in long, cleanly reticulated lines. As he opens with admonitions that we live blindly and mechanically, "perched at perception's precipitous edge," and situated in a history we ignore (the latest version is "like just another block of vacants recolonized after being boarded up"), a sense of ponderousness, of didacticism, creeps in. But Schultz can be bitterly funny and discerning about contemporary life ("ever since the courts upheld/ Corporations' rights to marry they seem hardly interested in us"), and throughout he urges the kind of vigilant awareness that poetry exemplifies. The title poem is masterly, moving from the "bland abstract expressionism" of America's landscapes to the "beauty of transgression," as demonstrated by 19th-century Parisian rioters and Sixties students, whom Ronald Reagan said he wanted to meet with a bloodbath, to the speaker's absorption in life's superficialities as a friend suffers.
VERDICT Weighty but worth it for serious poetry readers.

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