Robert Creeley said that a poem is “an act of attention.” A bird singing brings us to attention. A person singing can bring us to tears. For a moment, time stops, and the reality that we are keenly alive collapses upon us. There’s a scene of such attention in Terry Pettit’s poem, “Route 9, Short of Kremmling, Colorado,” in which the valley below is felt to be breathing. We are speaking here about the poet’s ability to hold truth momentarily, because like the fish you catch in your hands, it’s bound to slip away. We are more alive for knowing the value of that impermanence: the turning over of a leaf in the wind, or, in Terry’s wonderful phrase, “moonlight slipping under the sheets.” The poetry is also beautifully voiced: “I live on Egg and Butter Road / in the quiet town of Columbiana.” No matter the scene, the course is toward the essential: the river in turmoil and calm, a “scree-covered ledge,” and the evidence that someone loves us.
-Paul Hoover, editor of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry, and the author of fifteen collections of poetry.
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