Kevin Dyer’s is a poetry of traveling, movement, transience. His poems are “filled with the sounds of leaving,” of the commonplaces of departure, of the final passage. They are all, in a way, “songs of loss.” This is a poetry which is keenly, astutely sung, the world heard, observed as if it were “a lost language newly deciphered.” “What is left to do in this undoing?” he asks. His remarkable, completely accomplished first book implicitly answers: Make an art which is tragic in its intense clarities, its searching, questing music. For the places of our dwelling have ”nothingness woven in” them. Kevin Dyer’s beautiful poetry, exceptional in a time when beauty is often dismissed or diminished, is “a falling just for you to hear one after another in the heart of your forest.” Peter Weltner
In Kevin Dyer’s poems, words are Polaroids which develop into moods; landscapes, drawn in deft strokes, manifest a slice of experience, a rich inner world. The landscapes? A cab in Riyadh, a street in Burma, a New York City apartment – this book is global in scope, local in focus. In “Mission of Burma,” new and old worlds, powerful and powerless, co-exist: “beneath the edifice of The Government Telegraph Office / feathered hens dangle from the back of a bicycle / and the power goes out.” When the poems venture into abstraction, they earn it in the specificity and humility of their images. “Empty Quarter 7” somehow manages to describe nothingness without cliché and without losing touch with its stand-in—desert sand. In these meticulously imagined poems, the everyday segues to the universal and somehow both sides of the metaphor remain steadfast. This is how you earn metaphor. Still, the speaker stands vigil against ill-advised leaps: “The Empty Quarter is no metaphor. / It is pure desert, nothing more. / Its borders—shift—so that it is / never mapped with any accuracy.” The few metered and rhymed seem effortless, organic, marking the movements of wind and water. Sound is key – as critical as image: The wind in the leaves delivers reassuring sibilance: “an oceanic swell through the skittering, serrated leaves, / laying waste to the / last of the summer trees.” These are spare, ageless poems, quiet and sometimes somber—yet many also deliver flashes of humor in dry observation. In “Red Sea #7: English as a Second Language,” students have “only one wife since it’s too expensive anymore to keep / two or three.” And there is hope: one dark day in Central Park, a blind squirrel “did something in the nimble way he took peanuts” from the speaker’s “invisible hand.” These poems offer alleyways for shaping small miracles from dust. In “Public Authority,” “What if you had instead of a target, a sign someone stuck on your back that said / Whatever happens, I’m always here.” Lisa Carl
There’s a kind of synesthesia that occurs while reading Kevin Dyer’s poetry. The dust gets under your skin, there’s a scent of sand, of heat and spices, the rush of a river. The impact is nearly visceral, evocative, sometimes almost other-worldly. Whatever the experience, I can’t read it without feeling altered in some way, as if I’ve been on a journey into the essence of being or un-being; sometimes incendiary, often tender, the heart breaks open a bit wider. This collection of poetry unflinchingly refuses to look away from the everyday distillation of experience, vast in scope and yet impossibly infinitesimal in detail, a taste of the world on your tongue.
Susannah Rose Woods