And No Spiders Were Harmed by Steve Tomasko. Red Bird Chapbooks, 2016.
Reviewed by Bob Moreland
In a world of global terrorism, daunting headlines and political debates comes a petite chapbook with an enchanting cover that begs us pause, grab a glass of merlot or cup of tea, find a quiet place and discover life as if we had never seen it before. These 24 poems capture a sense of amazement and explore relationships with the tongue in cheek aphorisms of a sloth moth. It is rare one can take a title as a first line and successfully launch into verse but the first poem in this collection does just that. Love poem? You follow the sloth and the moth and suddenly see it at the end in a twist that leaves a smile. There is just enough science to make this accessible yet intelligent as the author weaves a tapestry for us.
What is important? In On the Occasion of a Day like any Other, the poet paints word pictures that are familiar but cause us to stop and watch it unfold. Squabbling gray geese melt out of the sky, drop/ into a field – acres of yellow stubble and snow;/small damaged soldiers parading in rows,/disappearing over a small rise.
Out of the ordinary comes extraordinary. I can still be surprised by my heart’s everyday beat,/ my lung’s insouciant rise and fall. I don’t want to say/ there’s magic in the ordinary or that the ordinary isn’t.
In Snow, Exactly as it Seems, the first line shatters cliché with Metaphors should not be easy..” In this prose poem, the beauty of the snow to erase yesterday’s footprints with a clean fresh slate in images we see, taste and feel.
Does anyone listen to the snow these days? The snow ice crystals of frozen speech. The snow huffing and warbling.
And then of course there are the spiders. It Starts with a Spider evokes that task of getting rid of it and yet it comes back. Word choices and sounds with starts and endings beg us look deeper, consider that “what if” reincarnation and embrace It ends in life and death and life. The signature poem of the collection provides of eight vignettes of the spider (complete with shape poetry) and while the chapbook’s disclaimer is undoubtedly fulfilled, we end with a familiar image and find ourselves singing the nursery rhyme with hand motions.
This is free verse with vivid word pictures salted with science that begs us to look at our world differently. It makes us think. Entomology and poetry seem unlikely partners, but there it is. Here is a love of nature, a love of life; all with a childlike wonder that frees us from the land of the colorblind focused on the trivial affairs of people. Steve Tomasko delivers in his chapbook a delightful read that I will peruse again and again in the hope that I never lose the wonder.