The Manageable Cold, Timothy McBride’s first poetry collection, is perfect to read in the midst of a hard winter. I was surprised to see that this was only his first book, since McBride writes with a confidence and skill that one would not expect from a new poet. McBride is not afraid to experiment with form, and the book includes forms ranging from free verse to villanelle to sonnet. He explores the theme of “manageable cold” through the physical coldness of winter, country life, relationships, and the bleak hardships of his father’s favorite sport, boxing.
My favorite poem in the collection was the first poem, “Snow Fence,” which tells the story of his grandson and another family member (an unnamed “her”) who would come to stay with him during the winters, avoiding each other the entire season. The poem gives an example of how families can work together, despite differences that are “grudging as the snow / that gathered each winter in the fence / it took the three of us to hang.” The work supersedes the “grudge” as the poem continues:
Clearer than any word or gesture,
I remember this, our one job together,
how they stayed each end of the coiled wire
while I moved back and forth along the ground,
stretching the frets to their angled shadows,
pounding the stakes at their feet. In a month,
a steep gray drift would rise
at the side of the drive
and curve between his windowsill and hers.
McBride’s work shows a close attention to sound and rhythm, a skillful mastery of subjects that seem genuinely close to his heart.