Review by Paul Julien (email)
by Patrick T. Randolph

Popcorn Press, P.O. Box 12, Elkhorn, WI 53121; ISBN# 1-4276-1089-4, 114pp., $7.50

Father's Philosophy is a new book of poems published in 2006 by the young Wisconsin writer Patrick T. Randolph.  Patrick grew up in northwestern Wisconsin, a vast and remote wooded area of the state, deep in snow in winter, owned by Black Bear and deer, and always dark green in the heart of August with a hot blue sky.  Patrick's poetry still carries that Northern-pine purity and freshness, the true fragrance rather than the chemical spray from a can.  He has had a number of his poems published by a back-pack of journals as widely dispersed as California Quarterly and The Wisconsin Poet's Calendar, and we welcome now the publishing of this collection, his first.
It seems to me these poems are all about the experiences that one has in life including those that seem so elusive and subsurface that our attempts to describe them or capture them on paper are as difficult as grabbing a fish tail.  Patrick specializes in spearing ephemeral entities out of the ether and flipping them into the boat, in order to elucidate the internals of feelings between people, to elucidate or describe the mysteries of Man in Nature, and to explore the frequent simultaneity of these feelings-mysteries.  Such moments of awareness can be large, or small, as in the poem "Small Change", which begins

God stopped by
A church
The other day

This is a book that searches these topics but, despite its many images of people doing gentle things to the earth, never comes close to sliding down into sentimentality, self-indulgence, or stickiness for stickiness's sake; you are entering a no-kitsch zone here.  These verses have great clarity, and no fat or gristle.  In places Patrick uses the discipline and simplicity of a 5-7-5 syllable beat to great effect to increase the impact of each word, without ever hitting you over the head with IT'S A HAIKU FROM WISCONSIN, GET IT?  This is a very soft-spoken book.  Patrick has traveled the U.S and Alaska extensively, and has lived in Japan.  He has collected many precious stones along the way:

The Moon crawls across
Raindrops on a maple leaf

I immediately picture the maple leaf as dark red, but each reader will summon their own image of a moonlit night, fresh from the rain.
His way of approaching the intimacy and enormity of relationships always displays warmth, wonderment, and elegance:

Returning home from school
I enter an empty house.
Outside in April's backyard
I observe my mother and father
Holding hands, their grey hair --
Small kites in the wind

These poems roam over topics that include harvest, planting, husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, fathers, seasons, motel rooms, birth, death, trees, a bar in Berkeley CA, earth and small creatures, and love, and Love.  These poems have learned from work:

While late spring's calm afternoon light rescinds
And darkness whispers to her eyes to bring
Her work to a close

and from marriage:

My wife's voice now begins to take a stance;

These poems have learned from nature in a great many ways. And we will learn from Patrick as he continues to give his gifts to us.  We eagerly await their arrival.  This is a beautiful addition to any poetry shelf.


Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.