Bruce Dethlefsen doesn’t write many books of poetry. It’s been six years since he came out with his second book, Something Near the Dance Floor by Marsh River Editions. And one doesn’t see much of his poetry in and around the small press, but my-oh-my, when he decides to show us his good stuff, he comes out swinging. In this, his third and largest collection of poetry, Dethlefsen does most everything right. He is a master of drawing word pictures that are at once narrative stories, melodies, and free association free-for-alls.
The book is broken into five sections that broadly define the thematic mood of Dethlefsen’s mind: migrant, knots, poet warrior, secrets, and autopsy. There is great kindness here, and a mind with a very wide reach.
Here are two poems from Breather. “Playing the Field”: “you hover / you say I’m not your first flower / your first lover // you lower yourself / how hoverly / how loverly / then leave // I see you buzz off / to play the field / oh bee / my honey boy / oh baby mine / come back to me”. And “When Somebody Calls after Ten P.M.”: “when somebody calls after ten p.m. / and you live in wisconsin / and you’re snug in your bed // then all’s I can tell you / somebody better be missing / somebody better had a baby / or somebody better be dead”.
In Breather, Dethlefsen flows from the concrete to ethereal. He orbits around the collective unconscious like a Jungian astronaut – his interior radar big enough to find meaning in both the great moments and the small nuances of life. This is the blessing of the mature poet – one who has lived hundreds of lives and can bring this diversity of experience to us as a numinous pool of images to soak in. Breather is an exceptional collection of poetry.