January 25, 2009

Review by Andrew Allport

by Mark Irwin

New Issues Press
Western Michigan University
1903 W. Michigan Ave.
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5463
ISBN: 139781930974784
2008, 73 pp., $14.00

Tall If, Irwin’s sixth full-length collection of poetry, begins with a quote from Moby Dick, where Melville describes the ability of the mature mind to cast back into its experience: “Once gone through, we trace the round again: and are infants, boys, and men, and Ifs eternally.” It is from here that the title of the collection springs: to be an “If,” it seems, is to be endowed with the power of imagining both past and future.

Coincidentally, this is the capability of the author as well, and this author in particular. Irwin’s poems often reach into storehouse of childhood imagery, as well as the symbols of the afterlife, as in one of the collection’s most beautiful poems, “When I Died,” whose single sentence winds its way through the shifting perceptions of both life and afterlife:

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