It's another snowy day in Cleveland, but I take comfort knowing that Elton Glaser, one of the country's finest poets, is at this moment sitting in his living room in Akron, gazing out the window and slowly assembling a marvelous poem that will in some way help make this winter seem worthwhile.
For Elton Glaser is a master of the small, closely observed moment, the image of God dwelling in the detail that so many of us miss, and this talent is once again on display in his splendid new collection of poems, "Here and Hereafter" (University of Arkansas Press).
Here's a ripe pear sitting in a bowl, as seen through Glaser's lapidary eye:
My mouth aches for that taste
Of earth and air and rain, back
To the blossom and the blunt tree
Where it swelled in shade, rounding
On the stem, before it fell through
A slow soft summer to my hands.
Glaser, a distinguished professor emeritus of English at the University of Akron, has published five previous collections of poetry, and they are among the books I most often find myself reaching for when I feel the need to rediscover just what it was that brought me to poetry in the first place: the sheer pleasure of language.
I delight in this poet's easy voice, by turns funny, lyrical and smooth as old whiskey, a voice he calls, "my tongue of odd American, my mongrel sublime."
Nothing monumental happens in "Here and Hereafter." There are no poems about 9/11, no post-tsunami body counts. Glaser doesn't need to range that far to get our attention.
More likely you'll find him roaming through his beloved Italy or working in his garden, gazing at his roses, the "yellow elegies of spring." His garden may be small, but like Emily Dickinson, he sees the world in it:
Whatever's ahead of us
I don't want to know.
Just let me Sit here in the shade
And listen to The small talk of the rain.
Bilgere teaches at John Carroll University. His most recent book of poetry is "The Good Kiss."