Bloom, Simmons B. Buntin’s second poetry collection, is a book that immediately draws the reader in. Buntin’s comforting tone invites the reader to pull up a chair and listen to his stories—stories about his family, the desert landscape of Arizona, and light and darkness. The book is divided into three sections—“Shine,” “Flare,” and “Inflorescence,” further developing the subtle thread of light versus darkness that can be found in the undercurrent of his poems.
The book opens with the poem “Whether You are Listening or You are Reading,” which invites the reader into Buntin’s private life. He speaks lovingly, though never sentimentally, about his wife, “who listens to a podcast and sometimes / laughs so hard her earbuds drop.”
While integrating references to modern technology into a poem can sometimes pose difficulties and create a cold, artificial tone, Buntin masterfully weaves these references in this poem, and later in poems such as “Amazon.com” and “In May I Consider My Websites,” with the tangible everyday.
In this first poem, he also introduces you to his muses, his two daughters—“Juliet curled beneath a quilt of flowers, / Ann-Elise bent across her black blanket.” The last line of the poem both charms and invites the reader to continue further into the book: “I think of you again, listening or reading— / the poem paused by the person you love.” The poet, unlike many modern poets today, makes it clear where his priorities lie—not with poetry, but with the subject of his poetry, what he truly loves.
Though there are many notable poems in the book—for example, “Flare,” a short poem written in couplets set in Arizona, where the brevity of life is compared to “the last brushstroke of sunlight, you say, flaring / now to rise again next spring”—the long poem that is the last section of the book, “Inflorescence,” truly showcases the author’s skill as a poet. The poem, written in eight sections, tells the story of his young daughter accidently running through a plate glass door. The poet causes the reader to feel the parents and child’s fear and shock and the blood is “inking the white / pages of her arms and legs.” He pulls back from the accident in the next section, opening with
Our agave is dying:
thick stalk rises on center
in bluegreen and mauve. Large
as a bull, the needle-edged plant wants
to bloom before toppling:
Who doesn’t aspire to shine
before the end?
Subtly, he leads the reader to wonder if the daughter recovered from the accident. In the next stanza, and in subsequent stanzas, he assures the reader, telling of his daughter’s emotional and physical healing process, while still coming back to the dying agave.
I would highly recommend this book—Buntin’s work is not only skillfully written but touching in a way that is unique from many modern poetry books.