cover image Westerly


Will Schutt. Yale Univ, $18 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-300-18851-6

The latest winner of the venerable Yale Younger Poets Prize turns out to be terse, well-traveled, resolutely unfashionable, and, finally, wise. Westerly is a town in Rhode Island, “where nirvana is a long time/ coming... the way stupid hope won’t shut up”; it’s also a direction for American history, for personal migration (“you find yourself relieved/ your world is set in the Midwest// and facts belong to this poem”), for the roaming imagination, where “Not everyone who dreams dreams the beach.” Schutt yokes such pithy phrases to a gift for describing real places, and to a gift for memory: his longest, most painstaking poem commemorates a friend who died at 23. “Sometimes you turn to poetry/ the way you turn to another country,” an unrhymed sonnet begins, and Schutt can turn to other countries, too, with translations from modern Italian, including Montale; they sound like poems in English, and they sound continuous with the alert, serious, respectful life Schutt reveals. “Just once I’d like to end up/ on the other side of gravity,” he speculates, but his gravity—his seriousness—is one more gift; like Dan Chiasson or Jessica Greenbaum, he ends up at once contemporary, “confessional,” and quietly traditional. His debut (selected by Carl Phillips) can seem too short, but everything in it heralds a seriously important career. (Apr.)