Otherworld, Underworld, Prayer Porch

Copper Canyon. Apr. 2018. 72p. ISBN 9781556595202. pap. $16. POETRY
In his tenth collection, Levinson Prize winner Bottoms (We Almost Disappear) gives us poems about the stages of life: childhood, adulthood, the birth of a child, caring for aging parents, and death. The poems also delve into his earliest memories, home (especially the prayer porch), and deep connection to nature and reverence for all creatures, even those that provoke fear: "I studied the moccasin for a moment longer—/ the fat and terrible muscle of him, his black scales rippling." In the best poems, we encounter the mystery of life: "A doctor I knew once/ told me that every time he watched a patient die/ he thought he could see something tangible// leaving the body." The author's attention to detail bedrocks these poems, as in when Bottoms describes the view from a baseball field of a river below the rendering plant, where "chicken parts still flooded up in the pool beyond the rock—/ clots of dirty feathers, feet." In one of his porch poems, he shows what often happens when people seek solace outdoor: "Somewhere// a yard fanatic is butchering another tree."
VERDICT Throughout, Bottoms brings an almost prayerful attention to the everyday. No fireworks here, just accessible language that records ordinary life and infuses it with mystery and longing.
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