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That Train Again

  • Image: Image
  • Book Type: Poetry
  • by: Mark Statman
  • Date Published: April 2015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-935084-81-5
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 126pp
  • Price: $16.00
  • Review by: Valerie Wieland
At first I was baffled by Mark Statman’s style—succinct, clipped verses, and scant punctuation. But as I progressed through the pages of his new poetry book That Train Again, his poems took on more meaning. Having published numerous books of poetry and now teaching literary studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts, Statman’s skill and experience shows throughout this collection.

His wife, the equally talented painter and writer Katherine Koch, plays large in this book, from her untitled painting, the book’s cover art, to at least eleven mentions of her name in various poems, including four in the poem “one more.” Additionally, “red wine” is dedicated to Katherine. That led me to wonder, at times, if this book was too personal for mass consumption. The repeated mention of her name tended to keep me outside those poems, rather than bringing me in. But in spite of my slight irritation with frequent mention of the woman who rocks Statman’s world, his poem “the almost dead” is one of my favorites:
the almost dead
have books on
the night table
opened, stacked
like that ready
to be read again 
Statman then muses on what he’d like his almost-dead days to encompass. The reverie continues, until:
[ . . . ] Katherine brings
some iced tea
we look at each other
and I remember to think
how lucky this life
has been 
Statman’s love of nature, and especially birds, comes through clearly in poems like “drift,” with this humorous, philosophical beginning:
boats can
trains should not
nor planes
nor cars
people can
though maybe
less drift time
is better 
and continues:
the air is full of
tree frogs, pileated woodpeckers
red-winged blackbirds
crickets, great horned owls
tawny owls
a growl somewhere near 
Birds also appear in these autobiographical words from “tranquilo”: “I know poetry / [ . . . ] / poetry and birds // at least birds of eastern / North America.”

The title of this book, That Train Again, is spotted in the last line of the poem “stations,” which tells of the toddler Jesse playing trains. At one point, Jesse is the conductor:
without even a whistle
he changes back
and there he is
that train again 
Statman is very much in command of the compressed, narrative form in That Train Again. If you read this book—or even just pick and choose among the poems—you’ll discover his style becomes less alien, and his poems will talk to you.
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Review Posted on February 01, 2016

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