Reviews, Vol. 4.2, June 2010
Paperback, 32 pp., $12
Review by Cynthia Reeser
Sunnyoutside Press is known for their excellent book design; I have never met a Sunnyoutside title that wasn’t beautifully crafted or otherwise aesthetically pleasing. Thomas Rain Crowe’s The Brucciano Poems is no exception, and the author’s introduction seems to be straight from the days of Percy Shelley, describing the author’s travels in Italy and stay with a friend in the village of Brucciano, which inspired the poems—certainly as good a reason as I’ve ever know for writing a series of thematically linked poems.
Crowe’s greatest strength is in evoking a sense of place. Local culture is given color and the Italian language bubbles to life in lively piazzas. Unfortunately, pretension and sentimentality are the usual fare along with mundane writing, the latter of which is evinced in lines like,
in and out from red rooftops.
Blue sky above.
Shutters on old buildings closed.
Some for centuries.
While the subject matter itself, in terms of place, is interesting, most of the poems do not make it past observation; they don’t “leap” into other territory or reveal anything new. In some poems, the writing is lazy and unoriginal, as with “The Only Boy in Brucciano”: “Niccola / is the only boy in Brucciano. / The only child his age.”
As a whole, the collection is unfortunately underwhelming. The language does not work nearly hard enough for the subject matter. I would be interested to read this poet’s future work, in hopes of finding a craft more finely honed.