The Goodbye World Poem

The lovely laments in Brian Turner's fourth collection, The Goodbye World Poem--the follow-up to The Wild Delight of Wild Things--dwell in the aftermath of loss and cultivate compensatory appreciation for the natural world. The death of his wife in 2016 is not the only bereavement in Turner's recent roster: "Vigil" is about his father's last moments, and "The Dead Guys" is an elegy for a close friend. "Dying is so intimate," Turner writes in the opening poem. Even David Bowie's passing felt like a personal affront, as well as a reminder of mortality. "The world is always dying," Turner concludes.

And yet the poet still finds much to celebrate in these 30 poems: narrow escapes, to start with, such as the uncanny parallel of saving his half brother, a toddler, from drowning in a pool, and Turner's Uncle Paul then rescuing him from the same threat. There are also snapshots of road trips ("the transcendent was often a gas tank away"), the memory of an erotic encounter late in his wife's illness ("Coconut Oil"), and the peace of being in nature, "listening/ to the language of branches and leaves." Turner's poetry is gilded with alliteration ("her fingertips, little fireworks") and maritime metaphors ("The Subconscious"). The long title piece, which closes the collection, repeats many phrases from earlier poems--a pleasing way of drawing the book's themes together. The worst suffering is over, the tone suggests, and in "this quiet place I'm learning is the rest of my life." And his strategy is to "fall in love with the small things." --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

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