A poem like Gildroy’s—which, honestly, reads more like a eighth-grade love note on wide-ruled paper than proper verse—may have more to offer than first glance suggests. It seems to spring from real, not simulated, loss; it imposes a rhyme scheme to test its mettle; and, most importantly, it has no posturing. The American Poetry Review tends to publish work like this (check here as well)—poems without great depth, whose blue-collar, neighborhoody settings and imagery are content with standing pat. Their well has got the bucket on a tight rope, and generally comes up with a glassful, at best.
Their position is defensible: many prefer the skinny simplicity of Kay Ryan over the gestural, pissing-contest types, writing largely to impress one another with taglines rather than committing themselves to frank address, skinny or broad. But it’s not enough for Gildroy, in this case, to have attempted rhyme, and come up with ‘flame’ and ‘shame’ or ‘song’ and ‘along’ on chipped-off lines. And it is not enough for her to have been ‘sincere’ if sincerity dares no greater an emotional examination than ‘And what do I do with this love,/that sticks like pitch to my heart—and will never/let me go.’ While it may seem coarse of me to introduce this sentiment as love note stuff, the fact is that its image recalls a time of very immature (however hot) reckoning with passion and loss. It is completely unequal to the pain Gildroy is trying to convey, because it accords to both a time and a phrasing when one’s sensibilities were inadequate. The poem has very little voltage as a result.
I wonder what “Uncreated Light” would have become had it followed the potential pastoral bent of ‘I found you in/the pauper’s field’—it wouldn’t have had to marry some anachronistic, genre-type turn, but at least could’ve inhabited a space that dared it to be something more than ‘heartfelt.’
Instead, there’s the glassful, and a foot of unused steel.