Grant and I got our MFAs together at Bowling Green State University. He was a poet I admired then and still do — his style and themes, often nature-based, are consistent and true. He’s had four books published, two in the last six months. He also writes a blog, Uniambic, connecting with other writers and sharing his thoughts on the process.
The Trouble with Rivers (FootHills Publishing, 2012)
Structure: The book is divided into three sections.
Feelings while reading: Admiration, inspiration. These poems remind me what poetry is for — lines that make you pause and think (and sometimes think, dammit, I wish I’d written that). The cover image and title beautifully illustrate this book about making a home and the things that rush in quickly, unexpectedly as well as the things that are already there, hidden and waiting, that complicate the work of building what we want built.
Favorite poems: Metal, No Word or Name, Firsts and Lasts, The Deer of Todaiji Temple, The Names of Places, Want of Fire, Reading Myself to Sleep, After the Argument
Favorite lines: “I squeeze back and a word is born / and blows away before being named. / A hole is dug and filled. / A world is made and buried.” (No Word or Name)
Necessary Myths (The Broadkill River Press, 2013)
Structure: The book is divided into two sections. It was the winner of the 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize.
Feelings while reading: The poems read like reflections on the past, with wisdom and clarity that come only with time. In the book, there is death – babies, children, a teenager, a dog. The poems offer, not explanations, but a deeper understanding of the ways the past shapes us, the truth that everything that happens around us, we absorb. Many of the poems’ closings are soft gut punches that stay so that by the end of the book, I needed to take a deep breath.
Favorite poems: Necessary Myths, Putting the Dog to Sleep, No Geometry, The Bees, After Things, The Whole Story, Parable of Mouths
Favorite lines: “It’s hard, yes to love / the stone in your shoe / when your whole life / is spent walking.” (Necessary Myths)
The Magician’s Handbook (PS Books, 2017)
Structure: The book is divided into three sections: NeoPhyte, Adept, and Magus. The lifetime of the Magician is weaved throughout the book.
Feelings while reading: I really loved this book. The character of the Magician is interesting — I don’t know if I like him, but I liked seeing inside his head. This book also had humor in it, despite its sometimes darker themes.
Favorite poems: The Good Lie, Lights in the Cornfield, The History of Magic Part 1, Graduating from Magician School, Kabir Says, Field Guide to the Suburbs, The Magician’s Yard Sale, Naming the Hurricanes, Magician Sends his Kids to College, The Magician’s Doves
Favorite lines: “Everything that falls from the sky / should be someone we loved / and need to go on touching.” (Naming the Hurricanes)
Reckless Constellations (Cider Press Review, 2018)
Structure: The book is divided into three sections. The first section focuses on a pack of high school friends; the second is more based on family. The book was the winner of the 2016 Cider Press Review Book Award.
Feelings while reading: The first section felt quite familiar — I remember the stupid fear and fearlessness of the teenaged years. There is a lot of revisiting throughout this book really, feelings that aren’t “distance or wonder / or the shifting perspectives of age, / but the loss of something great / too late to savor” (Too Late). As I read, I lingered on the lines, going back to re-read a number of times — this is what I do when I read good poetry.
Favorite poems: Slasher, Snapper, Reunion, Memorious, Going Back, To Read Dead Poets, All Winter, Blue Gill, Snakeskin, Too Late, Catch the Release, Camouflage
Favorite lines: “Going back to the wreckage / was, of course, a mistake, like going back for revenge / or digging up the bones / of your childhood pet.” (Going Back)
Final Thought: Clauser’s strong voice lives in all four books: it’s a reflective one that longs/looks for the wisdom we all want. Regardless of the story, character, or situation of the poem, every one of these resonate. They’ll leave you thinking, remembering, trying/hoping you’ll understand what your life has meant.