In passionate poems about sin, obsession, and mortality—an artist’s infatuation with a doll, an interspecies relationship, an ex-lover whose presence lingers in recipes, ecclesiastical birds, and a sex toy holding a loved one’s ashes—Waters delivers impeccably crafted narratives infused with his signature lyrical gestures. At the book’s core is a sequence of twenty-five poems on aging, dementia, and caregiving, chiseled phrase by phrase toward unflinching and memorable closure. Caw is a brilliant, intimate and moving addition to Waters’s body of work and may be his most powerful collection yet.
Against the snow they’re silhouettes,
These crows, how many hundreds
Burdening branches, these
Kindergarten cut-outs, these
Rorschach blots, sloppy calligraphy,
Or jagged wounds, the sky torn,
But not political, if that’s possible.
Then a blast scatters the murder
& any direction they flee is wrong.
Smoke on the hillside. The soldier
Stares, rifle tensed on one shoulder.
He’s looking me over, wondering who I am.
I’ve seen this scene in films, Russian novels,
Old Master oils, Pathé newsreels.
Or on CNN—smoke in the city,
Schoolchildren scattered among rubble—
If that’s possible—or blue sky, shade trees,
Suburban sprawl. The police car stops.
The boy stares. How many hundreds.
One caw, then silence.
Something horrible about to happen.
The Dean of Discipline (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018)
“He tempers in his latest collection a delight in wit and wordplay with a rigorous prosodic training honed and refined throughout a long and distinguished career… A voluptuary of style… Michael Waters is the ablest poet of an able generation.”
—Floyd Collins, The Gettysburg Review
“The Dean of Discipline’s absorbing subject is the making of art, showing and teaching us a poet’s meticulous and raucous devotion so that we gain a sound and sense of how poems are, in fact, created… Waters’s work assumes a divine erotic presence even in his most harrowing poems.”
—Judith Vollmer, The Georgia Review
Celestial Joyride (BOA, 2016)
“The consistency of his work over the past thirty years has contributed greatly to American letters, and his unique voice within the poetry world illuminates, with precision and clarity, the intricate nature of the human condition.”
—Esteban Rodríguez, American Book Review
“Waters stands among the best American poets writing today.”
—Roberto Bonazzi, San Antonio Express-News