In John Reibetanz’s tightly crafted new collection of poems, poetry and narrative are united with astonishing power and beauty. The collection first probes pivotal moments in the lives of his family, leading to a haunting prose memoir of the journey to his dying mother that recalls a “nomadic childhood” in flight from his mother’s withdrawal into illness, his adult secession from an America bent on war, then emigration to a more accommodating country. Following the same creative urge celebrated in his father-in-law’s cooking and the blues of Louis Armstrong, the poems then move into a world of intersecting fictional relations, unfolding an extraordinary range of characters. Their dilemmas are not solved but contained in luminous poems, at once spare and ample, whose clarity is born of precision. In these poem-stories of love, loss, and recovery, darkness often serves to intensify the light. Near Relations is the work of a poet compassionately engaged with the world, and one of our most accomplished lyric voices.
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