T. Clear: A House, Undone

A HOUSE, UNDONE, T. Clear. MoonPath Press, PO Box 445, Tillamook, OR 97141, 2022, 86 pages, $16.00 paper, http://MoonPathPress.com.

What a pleasure to read this book this morning!

“Pleasure” seems a less than adequate word as the topics of some of these poems drift far from the pleasurable. Unexpected deaths, lawsuits, houses slipping from foundations. Bird nests, dismantled. A beloved’s clothes trundled off to Good Will. Squalor of a homeless camp. Even so, in every poem we find the glitter of well-chosen words. The trajectory of the poems pulls a life together, lining up events like laundry on a clothesline: “ice brittled in every empty pocket.”

Kelli Russell Agodon, from the back cover: “A House, Undone becomes the beautiful architecture for poetry, where we live in a house of words on ‘a bed littered with leaves, / starlight for a roof.’” And Jed Meyers: “These poems turn personal loss and uprootedness into a highly contagious empathy for those whose dwellings we couldn’t call houses.”

I’m amazed by how the poet makes everything fit here. It’s biography (three sections: childhood, marriage, after) but settling in alongside the biography are two poems written in Ireland, a poem about cheese (“Autobiography of Cheese”!), beekeeping poems. I had to go back and reread just to figure out how Clear carries it off so convincingly. Maybe it’s the way house/home is always lurking around the lines: “a stone cottage hunkers / in decay, vulnerable to stars”; “let me be small enough to enter a honeyed hive / …fold myself, shoulder to shoulder, / into the sweet company of their cluster.”

I’d love to share a dozen poems, but I’ll settle for the first poem in the collection, which opens the door and invites us in:

Life Sentence

I live in a house of scant beginnings,
of rupture and leakage,

splinter and rot. A wire
dangles to nowhere, something

cut mid-sentence, a thought
that will never complete itself.

A house of raveling sweaters
and unpainted stairwells.

Crack in the glass, hemless curtain,
the last bit of aluminum foil

flattened and folded one more time.
Awaiting the phone call, the letter,

a knock at the window,
crow at the door—

here lie all my unfinished cadenzas,
my abrupted couplets.

—T. Clear

I always read the acknowledgments — “Gratitude,” here — and was so tickled to find a tribute to Professor Nelson Bentley:

…under whose tutelage I learned that one can be a poet and live a perfectly ordinary life. (Although “ordinary” is a slippery word, open to myriad interpretations.) His generous spirit, his sense of humor, and his inclusive community of poets profoundly shaped how my next forty years of “poeting” would play out.

A House, Undone shares that generous spirit. It won MoonPath’s 2021 Sally Albiso award, and you can read more about it here.

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