Kristine Muslim's Reviews > How To Say Goodbye

How To Say Goodbye by James Valvis
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Feb 25, 12

How to Say Goodbye, James Valvis’ first collection of poetry, nourishes the reader without the use of stylized language calisthenics. These poems are told in a voice that’s sincere, darkly humorous, and graceful.

His poems will hit a nerve. Take for example this enchanting piece entitled “City Kid.” It’s worth quoting in full:

Late one fall
as we pass
a small field
with decaying
pumpkins lying
in the dirt

my daughter
wants to know
why everyone
suddenly left
their basketballs
outside to rot

What I love best about this book is not the recurring themes of alienation and hope, but the candor, the down-to-earth-yet-ethereal vibe. For me, the poems are refreshingly beautiful because I don’t feel that they have been tweaked to perfection to impress via wordplay. The poems are cut out, dried, and splayed with their muddied and muscular faces intact. I recoiled after reading “Revolution,” a bizarre case of domestic abuse. I smiled at the candid portrayal of a military funeral in “Burial Detachment.” The titular piece, “How to Say Goodbye,” introduces us to “a husband about to help his wife flee her lover.”

And here is my favorite which I bookmarked for rereading: from “Crossing the Street, My Daughter Reaches for My Hand”

The hand you now want, daughter,
the hand you reach for as we come
to the curbside is not clean.
It has stolen things, shoving want
deep into pockets so that later
all that could be withdrawn was shame.

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