Pray Me Stay Eager

A boisterous collection of poems both formal and free, rhymed and dissonant, Pray Me Stay Eager is a wise and whimsical tribute to aging with lust and wonder. Director of the Poetry Center at Smith College, Ellen Doré Watson (Dogged Hearts) addresses subjects as diverse as flushing intrusive ladybugs down the toilet and fantasizing romance with a fellow airplane passenger in the poem "LAX to BDL" ("I only see us with our clothes on--real lust lately/ gone underground from lack of habit & hope... I hang back as we deplane, and here he/ comes, looking rumpled, sluggish, kind of watery, just like me"). Her narrators are mothers, ex-wives, daughters and lovers musing on the earthy roots of the abstract and the abiding verities of the mundane.

The source of the collection's title, the disjunctive poem "Not a Thing" captures the prayerful nature of its several odes and what she calls "field guides." It begins with a cautionary declaration: "I haven't been known     to address the Lord... it's a human wow I'm after    the shiver-spank/ of a Zulu choir." Watson's supplicatory poems not only "pray for eager," but also advise us as we age to "praise longing, it's what keeps us un-/ finished" and accept that "maybe we'll never again be the selves/ we remember, but isn't complication fun? ...who knows/ the wonders to come of our rack and ruin." In "Ode to Awe," the fitting final poem of this vibrant collection, Watson optimistically twists the definition of the abstraction awe from "outsized excitement" to "outside" and concludes: "If I ever see God,/ it'll be out of doors./ I turn the mat around/ --it says Welcome/ as I leave." --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.

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