This luminous book makes my heart happy. It takes up big themes–like identity, loss, space and time–and fastens them to the page with the smallest of details, precise and exact, that flare up in the imagination, opening into fissures that grow wider and wider with each rereading.
I’ve known Kevin Craft for about 20 years, we once shared an office at Everett Community College, and we both wrote our poems and shared them while wrangling our way from part-time English instructors to full-time, from newbie probationers, to tenured faculty, to …well, you get the picture. He’s still there, and despite a full plate of family, teaching, travel, and somehow managing to be executive editor of Poetry Northwest, has continued to write. And so, this book, Vagrants & Accidentals, which is the seventeenth book in the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series. You can read more about him, and a sampling of his poems, at Poetry Foundation.
Here’s a poem that I keep going back to:
Consider that a single grain of sand
cannot be arranged so as to form
Consider that it’s difficult
if not impossible to discover the exact
moment a tadpole becomes a frog,
the precise instant al dente
loses its bright tooth. At noon I am
half in love with you, half distracted
by the dishes in the sink.
Now the soul: tell me where is it
that split-second before
and after the old woman who is mother
and grandmother and cousin
to those assembled in a hospice room
kisses her own immigrant grandmother
on the cheek as she leaves that Napoli
she left long ago
forever in the past? In dying, does she
take the flyswatter with her,
does every cell turn off at once?
One death permeable as grief,
another obdurate: they lean against
each other, accumulating
mass. On a scale of extravagant
to frugal, we fall everywhere
Kevin Craft, Vagrants & Accidentals (University of Washington Press, 2017)