May 27, 2010


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On Purpose, by Nick Laird, W.W. Norton, 2010, 65 pages
Nick Laird’s poetry is like a Robert Parker novel: spare and raw, but dignified. Like an old boxer who still has a wicked right. On Purpose is fast and merciless. It works, mostly on adrenaline, and that’s OK.

In “Hunting is a Hole Occupation” the Irish poet offers a flurry of images from squatting toads to being beaten in the forest and finishes his machine gun diatribe with “I’ve come alone and naked, aching / liking my hands after eating, waiting / to learn if God exists, I hate him.” Read that out loud and listen to the matching of aching and waiting. It’s perfect timing.

Most of this slim volume works at that level with short, powerful punches that the reader rarely sees coming. Sometimes it backfires, but mostly the punches land. B+ - Dan Szczesny