Reviews, Vol. 4.1, March 2010
Bateau Press, 2009
Perfect bound; 20 pp.; $18
Review by Cynthia Reeser
Pushcart-nominated Allan Peterson is a veteran craftsman of language. He has been the recipient of National Endowment for the Arts and Florida State fellowships, and Omnivore provides a showcase for Peterson’s more recent work. His work is not immediately accessible, with the result that myriad interpretations tend to surface with each reading.
Omnivore is not about consumption, but about consumers. It is concerned with some of the most notorious omnivores—humans—and how we define ourselves by our surroundings. The body of work takes into account not only plant and animal life, but the entirety of our scope of existence, from the deep-space universe to earthen soil. A poem like “How,” whose subject resonates in a construct (in the literal sense), concerns itself with a home whose “boards do not fit together,” and “how they have been patched, how painted,” and “how often we might be described that way.” Our surroundings become a reflection and projection of the complex internalities of the self.
The omnivore is the result and product of the natural world, and in “Losing Track,” the poet evinces the human connectedness to such forces as the tides, while humanizing the force that creates them:
I lose track of tides and have to go out and see
where is the water on my chest.
Is it coming or going, those twin sisters.
Where is the moon and its children in the waves.
The perception that is shown here seems an attempt, not so much to understand the silent continuum of the universe, but merely to observe it. The cosmos are entwined with even the most mundane of life forms: “Life on earth is everything and we are / taken up with ruin and repair our wishful thinking / even though complexity fills the window” (“Preoccupied”). And life, like everything under the heavens, speaks of constant transformation. As creatures who possess awareness and the power to analyze, Peterson points out that to be truly perceptive, we must be omnivores, according to the dictates of our biological nature, and assess all. “Oracular” speaks wonderfully to this notion: there are signs in the surroundings that point the perception and analytical eye toward the signifier to seek meaning of its signs:
In a statistical moment all the horses in Ocala
touched their noses to the grass at the same time.
The odometer rolled to all sevens like a payoff.
A word was spoken in the car and the radio at once.
Humans have traditionally looked to different signs in the timeless attempt to draw meaning from life, with disputably varying degrees of success. In that sense, we are consumers of all things, creatures who take everything into account in the hopes that we can make sense of existence. Omnivore celebrates this eternal, all-encompassing search with finely-crafted written language, the ultimate signifier.