Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Lunations by Garrett Mostowski - Reviewed by Andrew Taylor-Troutman

Lunations: Poems, Garrett Mostowski. Wipf and Stock; 71 pages, 2023.

Reviewed by Andrew Taylor-Troutman

Wendell Berry asked that his readers speak his Sabbath poems to the trees. I wonder if Garrett Mostowski envisions Lunations read out loud to the moon, his muse. Whenever and wherever this collection is read, I recommend an atmosphere for quiet concentration.

Mostowski is a poet’s poet. He gives attention to the craft of a poem, employing literary devices like alliteration, internal rhyme and diction (choice of words). He cites a number of classical and modern poets, meaning he is well-versed and generous with naming his influences. That is refreshing.

Many poems are in free-verse form and use creative line breaks, spacing and structure. There are also prose poems, including two separate series envisioned as a captain’s journal and comments “overheard onboard.” He writes a haibun and several haikus. To give an idea of the range of topics, my favorite poem is a moving reflection about the relationship between father and son in the context of riding bikes.

Lunations, however, is aptly named. Many poems ruminate on that silent orb in the night sky. The moon’s many phases serve as a metaphor for the unpredictability, struggle and occasional delight of life. Poems about the moon are grounded in Mostowski’s earthly life, especially his intimate relationships. Though this is his first poetry collection, Mostowski avoids the rookie mistake of trying to say too much at once.

Like the moon’s surface, many of these poems are concealed with intentional ambiguity. Readers will have to work to interpret meaning. While a parish pastor, Mostowski rarely references Christianity. Like the shadow of the moon, he leaves readers to imagine the contours of their own faith.

The mark of this book is that such a reader’s effort is rewarded. Mostowski invites us to live into the paradox: we are moved in our daily lives by higher forces, if only we stop and look up. Slow down and notice. In “captain’s journal: final transmission,” Mostowski writes, “Here’s why I’m slow: … It is because I am away, / but still here with you, / just observing / everything / in my / time/ with space.”

Copyright©2023 by Andrew Taylor-Troutman. All Rights Reserved.