Each night, before I read my daily allotment of 2-3 poems (one must not rush poetry, especially Bazzett’s), I would study the cover of the book, complete with the outstanding cover photograph courtesy of Alec Soth (http://alecsoth.com/photography/), and consider the title. I would nod at the Casablanca allusion, but spend more time trying to think about how to say the title. Eventually, I decided that there should be a gentle emphasis on the word ‘remember’ as the idea of memory, especially as it relates to time, seems to be on Bazzett’s mind, particularly in the first third of this excellent collection.
For example, in the poem “Memory,” Bazzett writes:
Now that I am a man,
I can clearly recall
how snow sifted sideways
through the air. . .
(Here and elsewhere, Bazzet is the master of the line break.)
you know it when a pressing
darkness stained with light
and you wish you’d taken
that handful of crumbling
white pills before it came.
One more, from “The Difficulty of Holding Time” (notice even the titles),
The silliness of clocks and watches,
weather vanes with no wind, spinning
to correlate a thing they don’t measure
Okay, another (“Some Party”):
Then someone said, Tomorrow is an animal
that can be tracked but never captured.
From there (and I’m fully aware that I might be constructing an artificial frame), Bazzett seems to turn his attention to quiet, even silence. There are poems called, “from a Natural History of Silence” and “Unspoken.” These two motifs merged (at least in my mind) in the poem, “What Might” (a title, like the title of the collection, that merits re-reading), as the persona seems to be considering, if not confronting, mortality.
There are moments of greatness throughout (the ending of “Binary” – the world / is not in love with certainty and the beginning of “Cyclops” – The story is such a story. . .). There are too many to tell. Overall, this collection rings absolutely True. Even the poems that a cursory reading might suggest should be dismissed as simply clever merit a more careful re-reading. There is Truth (to borrow Bazzett’s use of capitalization) that will echo long after you finish this award-winning collection (http://milkweed.org/shop/product/358/you-must-remember-this/).
[Note: Bazzett is a former colleague and, I flatter myself, a friend.]