Since his first visit to the Maine coast, Larry D. Thomas has been intrigued by its synthesis of beauty and violence. The Lobsterman's Dream is his first poetry collection dedicated entirely to this ruggedly beautiful place.
A TOP SHELF review originally published in the October 3, 2014 edition of The Monitor
I recently read a handsome little chapbook by Larry D. Thomas, the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate. The Lobsterman’s Dream (Poems of the Coast of Maine) arises from the decades-long fascination that North Atlantic has held for Thomas, and like Homer, Melville, Tennyson, Masefield and other writers drawn to the sea and the men who ply its wine-dark depths, the poet recognizes the siren allure of the icy waters.
Thomas groups his Spartan yet achingly poignant verse in four sections. In “Battering the Granite” we are faced with the inhospitable nature of the sea, which forces gulls to “scream / to keep / their beaks / from freezing” over spectacular swells “ideal / for the lurid, / whether sightseer / or suicide” while the waves are blanketed by fog “stifling / as a soft, / silverish cloth / doused with ether.”
The next section, “Sans a Whit of Frill,” explores some of the art and artisanship inspired by the coast (without any jarring self-reference). “Dory” shows us a boat fashioned to be “exactly what the sea, / if wood, would be.” In “Lighthouses,” miniature replicas of the vital guide are treated with reverence by collectors. “Scrimshaw” juxtaposes the long loss of a mother with her carved whalebone earrings and a painting by Winslow Homer. “The Gull” and “The Painter’s Studio” both explore the kinetic and spiritual connection between object and art.
Under the rubric “Demon in a Hell of Cold,” Thomas groups poems about the people of the coast and the work they do, from the titular lobsterman who has lost his soul to “the ruthless, endless blue,” to the net-mender who can’t quit the sea though it nearly claimed his life. I especially liked “Meryl’s Place,” about a widow, her bar, and her flinty emotional fidelity to a long-dead fisherman.
Thomas wraps up the collection with a set of miscellaneous musings, including the gripping final poem, “The Tale,” in which a young man is drawn to the sea through a family legend: “Like a gleaming gaff / ripped into the gills / of a swordfish, the tale pulls him in his musing.” Exquisitely bound by El Grito del Lobo Press, with woodcut images and hand-set type that feels as timeless as the crashing waves, the poetry of Larry D. Thomas pulls us much the same.