Charles Rafferty’s latest collection of prose poems turns philosophical. In A Cluster of Noisy Planets, Rafferty captures the rhythms and patterns of life as a lover, father, and poet, distilling each moment to its essence and grounding them collectively in the wider perspective of a changing world, the constant turning of the stars and the changing seasons of the New England countryside. With a knowing nod to the passage of time—day to day, year to year, epoch to epoch—these lyrical poems form a record of the profound, ephemeral joys, losses, and echoes of commonplace moments.
The world is in short supply. This field of goldenrod will never be enough, and the ocean feels suddenly crossable. In every apple an orchard waits, but who has 20 years to cultivate it? Above our house, the contrails of the jets have turned into actual clouds. The rain they promise is another lie. Meanwhile, the taste of my blood implies that I am rusting, that a broken machine lies half-submerged in the pond I carry with me.
“Inasmuch as Rafferty writes in a hybrid form—the prose poem—one is obliged to be mindful of those canonical precursors that he engages in the traditional Bloomian agon. Such a contest is akin to Jacob wrestling with the Lord’s angel in the book of Genesis, feeling those terrible sinews tremble like the strains of some unearthly music. One immediately calls to mind not only Poe, Baudelaire, and Rimbaud, but also Georg Trakl, Francis Ponge, and Jean Follain.”
— Floyd Collins, The Gettysburg Review
“The prose poems in Charles Rafferty’s A Cluster of Noisy Planets, precisely and with great authority, document a world that has fewer stars and more ruins. The poems are artifacts that make a case for us to take a journey down paths where ‘swans are duplicating their grace’ and remind us that the ‘chain we forge is father to the rust.’ That juxtaposition between the beauty which exists in nature and the impermanence of what human beings create, and won’t last, is the nexus where the poems vibrate and reveal, ultimately conveying an urgent call to the reader to see the world and to appreciate what’s left of its fragile beauty.”
—Christopher Kennedy, author of Clues from the Animal Kingdom