The poems in Patrick Lysons’ The Reservoir showcase the complex beauty of the natural world, including lakes, trees, rivers, wildlife, and patterns of seasonal change. Lysons returns often to the image of the mountain peak, which serves as a symbol of human challenge and spiritual endurance: “The only real thing/ In a landscape of mountains/ Is the mountain one ascends.”
The collection is clearly lovingly produced and features three sections: “Mountain and Lake,” “Zunino,” and “Disappearing Waters.” All the poems include the repeated appearance of natural images, and, as such, no distinctive narrative, consistent speaker, or thematic focus emerges as rationale for these groupings.
Lysons displays a wonderful aptitude for the sensory and sonorous qualities of the poetic line, such as: “Beneath a stand of budding aspen/ I sit and work into a quiet stillness.” Unfortunately, many passages read as lists of concrete details (“Weeping insouciant sound/ Wild ibis on a pond/ Water plants algae birds…”), and readers can’t always discern who is observing these things or what significance they hold to the observer.
Passages can also be convoluted and confusing, as if the poet is trying to include too many details at once (“That day a memory flew into an interior design/ Out of a building that grew green things out of a path/ Of an old, older country he came here”). The most promising moments are those that identify the subject and the occasion for rumination in a clear, straightforward way; for instance, “Last night I waited for you by the fountain/ Watching the flickering shapes of fire candles” and “A young man begins his life/ In a lounge chair/ In America.”
Lysons has an ear for the lift and lilt of poetry, but this collection lacks an effective structure, and the poems require re-examination for clarity and context. With thoughtful revision, it would have wider appeal.
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