In his brilliant new collection of poems, with the extraordinary title of "The History of Forgetting," Lawrence Raab writes fondly of Emerson, Proust, Keats and Sherlock Holmes. He elicits Shakespeare ("In the middle of a path not far from your house / you find a letter..."), he ponders the vagaries of history ("If the sky had been clear, / if the water had been colder, / if the music had continued, perhaps / we wouldn't have fallen in love."), he's amused by the birth of words ("Before 1688 nostalgia didn't exist..."), and he's saddened by his mother's albums of blurred photographs ("Somebody moved. Somebody didn't / want his picture taken. So he's fooling around, / ruining things for everyone else. But sometimes / it's the mother, the one with the camera, / whose hand shakes and slides them all / out of focus...").
The questions Raab asks and answers ("Are there too many poems about the moon? / Probably. But will anyone notice / one more?") and his desire for simpler times (preferring the silent gliding of the scythe over the weed whacker) suggests that the poet may yearn for an earlier, less terrifying and mechanical time:
Is this a good life? someone asks.Raab's poems are casual but very precise, and highly conversational: one almost aches to hear them read aloud by the poet. The History of Forgetting (Penguin, 2009) is a powerful and very fine book.
There are slices of melon on the table.
A glass of water and an orange.
Glittering wire along the barricades.