cover image Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts

Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts

Lawrence Raab. Tupelo (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-936797-65-3

In his eighth full-length collection, Raab (The History of Forgetting), a teacher of literature and writing at Williams College, exhibits tight lyricism and a characteristically American wit in meditations on mortality and intimacy. "All that I am keeps me silent," he opens the book's meditative opener, before moving in the next poem to thoughts of murdering a coworker: "Let's say you feel someone is better off/ dead, but you don't do anything about it." Such wild swings in tone and subject matter are common throughout, as are Raab's occasional, but piercing, socio-political insights ("sometimes the rich appear// to ask for my trust. Believe us, they whisper./ What you can't have you don't need./ What you were never given you can never lose"), his scientific revelations ("Maybe nothing's only itself when we're looking"), and aphorisms ("Too much thinking is worse// than too much action, except for Proust./ And many other equally persuasive exceptions"). What binds this collection is neither the formal qualities of the poems, nor Raab's unmistakable voice, but his ability to move across registers with consistency and well-tempered feeling: "Swallows dash through the twilight/ and I don't think about/ what they might mean," he writes, "Or I didn't// just then. They swooped in and were gone." (Sept.)