S. Thomas Summers,
Death Settled Well
(Shadows Ink, 2006)

S. Thomas Summers is a poet of the everyday, the ordinary. He is a domestic writer whose territory is the living room, the kitchen and the garden. To drink a cup of coffee in the kitchen while gazing absently out the window and daydreaming about a nap is typical material for his work.

He writes about himself and his wife, and his major conceit is to try to find the significance that lies within the mundane. His favorite tactic for attaching significance is loading the commonplace with Biblical imagery. In "On a Park Bench," he calls clouds "herds quietly gazing / the unswept corners of heaven" and sees himself as being "beneath God's easy / chair, under his bed." "Listening to Charlie Daniel's Band" brings this image to his mind: "Yahweh links arms / with Satan and laughs. / So sweet was eternity's birth." In another poem, catching a bass becomes a lesson in Godhood. In a lot of cases, I find myself thinking, "That's a lot of weight for this poem to try to carry."

Sometimes, Summers is content, as in "Red Vinyl Raincoat," to simply capture the moment without trying to load it with importance. These efforts are, to me, more successful. Too often, though, he succumbs to sentimentality, the effort to tell us what to feel without actually creating that feeling, a flaw that weakens the overall effectiiveness of his work.

In all, Death Settled Well is a mixed bag and Summers is, at this point, a promising poet who hasn't quite achieved his potential.

review by
Michael Scott Cain

30 June 2007

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