By: Stuart Jay Silverman
Publisher: Atmosphere Press
Publication Date: October 2021
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Date: November 10, 2021
Poetry is magic, and especially so when coming from award-winning wordsmith Stuart Jay Silverman, who spins yarns, weaves tapestries of time and place, and creates seemingly real characters out of colorful patches of poesy.
In the first section of this multi-layered aggregation, he takes the reader “In the Biome,” and for those of us unfamiliar with the term, he will walk his reader through a multitude of these large, flora- and fauna-filled environments. At the outset, he shares “What the Tree Heard”:
A creaky old pond,
Then, toad, frog, something, drops in,
Maybe a gator,
Then, from the goopy water,
Wind breaks, a bubble of sound.
Readers will visit “The Brooklyn Botanical Gardens” and share some time with “The Ant.” But there will be human actors too, including the poet himself, as he contemplates “Roadkill” and buries a “package of bristles that had been a squirrel.” In the section titled “Familial Territory,” Silverman recalls a trip to Bulgaria on the day the Russians launched Sputnik. He and his companion drink Bulgarian wine, which he recommends for “removing paint or shining brass.” He leaves a frisson of doubt in the reader’s mind as to the absolute verity of the memory - adding to its mystic charm. “Workday” - a stark portrait of the dreary routine of a house cleaner - is credible and in its way, quietly hopeful. Not so hopeful is the picture of Sarah, a go-go dancer immersed in a sense of the futility of finding happiness, resorting to a rowdy routine that mocks her clientele.
In the section “A Formal Feeling Comes,” readers will find an “Autobiopsy” and identify, perhaps, with the varied recollections of “Class Reunion.” In the neatly named “One for the Road,” Silverman turns to rhyming couplets, detailing the strained triangle of wife Amelia (“Mother, partner, hausfrau and wife, whose tongue could cut like a carving knife”), husband Bill (“Whatever he’d done, or been, alive, died when he died, turned ninety-five”) and their maid Vickie (“A young black woman, she knew the odds had been stacked against her by the gods”).
Silverman, who has won several prestigious honors for his previous poetic works, has taught English at Auburn University, the University of Illinois and elsewhere and composed a travel guide with his wife with whom he has explored much of the globe. He describes himself as an “expatriate Brooklynite” who embraces both outer realities and his own inner spaces, while aiming to keep his poetic pieces as a lens for his reader to observe, and possibly identify with, both realms. His use of language is alluring throughout, whether in free or rhyming framework. Readers who let preconceptions go will find themselves immersed in Silverman’s uncompromisingly unconventional view of just about everything.
Quill says: In Drifters, observant poet Silverman has created a new themeless, timeless work that proves his mastery of his genre that will undoubtedly enchant a wide readership.