In Closing Time, his recent full collection from Pindrop Press, Jeremy Page shows us how to survive terrible emotional suffering with our humanity intact. This is not confessional poetry. It's a book that charts self-reconciliation, stirring empathy on every page.
Page's verse is understated yet highly charged. One such example is "Another Elephant". This poem engages with the reader via the use of reportage and the layering of narrative detail, as is demonstrated by its opening stanza:
"In winter, when the trees are bare,
I can stand here at my window
with that wooden Ganesh on the sill,
and look back to the old house
where it all goes on as it always did
except that I'm not there -
not sweeping the garden path
nor making another pot of tea,
not reading Peace at Last at bedtime
nor cleaning out the rodents' cage..."
An accumulation of specifics is what draws us in and involves us. This enables Page to step up a gear in the second stanza, where he's not afraid to tackle big abstract nouns:
"...And everything that brought me here -
the words, the silences, the pain,
the changing of so many locks -
is the other elephant in the room."
Closing Time is a precise book. It showcases a linguist's knowledge of how to use words to create a ripple. Moreover, the collection is meticulously constructed. The juxtaposition of certain poems has implicit ramifications that are significant. For instance, a hypothetical disappearance/possible suicide note titled "To Whom It May Concern" precedes "Shaving My Father", which is a celebration of love in all its transience:
"...Tomorrow he may not know
who I am or who I was,
but today he does, and is grateful
for the care I take
as I soap his face
with the badger hair brush..."
In other words, Page is questioning the effect of one poem by allowing us to compare and contrast it with the opposite page. He' helping the reader to undergo a similar process to himself, fighting back from the brink via love.
In this collection, the poet reconciles memory with the present, the past with the future. He interlocks and interweaves departures and arrivals, so it's also apt (and no accident) that he should bring the book to an end with the following lines:
"...and I see time future
contained in time past, and understand at last
why home is where we start from."
Closing Time might illustrate great pain, but it's packed with life and is written by a poet who never falls back on facile devices to move us. I feel privileged to have had the chance to review it.