Sneeden’s poems are taut; there are absolutely no extra words. Every word is precisely placed, every line broken purposefully. It took me a short while to find my stride in this collection, but when I got to “Estuarine” (I could shun the perfunctory / metaphors of collision), I was hooked. Other highlights include “Interior with a Violin Case,” “Muse as Critic,” “Continuing Demands,” and “Eeling.” “Easter” exudes tension between the generations as an extended family travels to church. What are the “offerings before the arguments”? The (grand)children?
Late in the collection, Sneeden’s attention turns to his father, and the poems, no less tense, are, in the true sense of the word, heartbreaking. In “The Eyes of the Scallops,” he says, “[W]e worked / beyond this world’s vague and broken shells.” The prize of the collection is in Part IV, the title poem. The stanza about the performance of The Women of Troy (and the double casting) will stay with me always.