The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree
Poetry is a remarkably personal act for such a public art form. It’s a conduit between the individual and the great forces around an individual, be they emotional, social, natural, or supernatural. And I’ve always found that the finest poets are those whose imagery and word choice are indelibly, irrefutably singular, yet not so fixed in tone and meaning that the reader can’t squirrel away a few small nuggets of wisdom and wonder for their very own.
Kevin Pilkington is a fine wordsmith, dancing deftly between wordplay and description with a feather-light touch. Whether it’s the slippery slope of perception in “Key West,” the pathos and nostalgia of “My Mother’s Clothes,” the dignified sarcasm of “The Reincarnation of Bagels,” or the deeper backstory beyond the lovely vistas and vignettes of his series meditating on the Mediterranean, he guides the reader with a confident hand and a mischievous grin.
His enthusiasm for his subject is obvious and infectious, allowing the reader to process multiple ideas in a scant few lines, the same brief glimpse of imagery rich with ambitious texture and undeniable beauty. This verve occasionally makes him too clever for his own good, though; lines like “even if I add a few / extra miles jogging, I’ll never / be able to cover the distance / between us” wield it so pointedly that the tone ends up somewhat cutesier than intended.
Nonetheless, a few awkwardly phrased lines amidst such splendor can hardly detract from what is a remarkably engaging collection. The pieces featured in The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree are vivid snapshots both familiar and foreign, captured through the lens of a sharp and immensely capable talent. I’m definitely looking forward to revisiting some of these poems; Pilkington has earned his spot on my nightstand for the foreseeable future.
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