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Book Review :: April at the Ruins by Lawrence Raab

April at the Ruins poetry by Lawrence Raab book cover image

Guest Post by James Scruton

Depending on the reader, the title of Lawrence Raab’s tenth poetry collection, April at the Ruins, might evoke “the cruelest month” of Eliot’s The Waste Land or a postcard from a Henry James character on The Grand Tour. There are glimmers of each here — mixtures of memory and desire as well as travels both real and metaphorical. But more often we find Raab meditating on love and loss (and much besides) with his characteristic sense of gratitude, entire lives suggested by a precise detail or turn of phrase:

… and as they crossed
the street she took his hand,
just as if everything
they hadn’t told each other
had never happened.
(“One of the Ways We Talk to Each Other”)

In “Little Ritual,” stones collected and then forgotten beside a lake become metaphysical emblems, the “zigzags of blue” in a “shiver of quartz” reminding the speaker “that some day everything / I love must be set aside, / or given away, or lost.” Amid the ruin we’ve made or witnessed of this world, Raab nonetheless celebrates an April of the spirit. “Nothing is beyond repair,” he writes. “How can there be a beautiful ending / without many beautiful mistakes?”

April at the Ruins by Lawrence Raab. Tupelo Press, 2022.

Reviewre bio: James Scruton is the author of two full collections and five chapbooks of poetry, most recently The Rules (Green Linden Press, 2019). He has received the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, among other honors.

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