Review: The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee

The Low Passions: Poems by Anders Carlson-Wee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With stuff I didn’t want to know about the world and reminders of things I don’t want to remember, Anders Carlson-Wee’s poems in The Low Passions feel like they have exactly the right words, the perfect, accessible, blunt, beautiful, challenging, and surprising words. Each poem has a turn that provoked a gasp and widening of my eyes. What the persona sees in the mirror at the end of “Pride.” What the photographs reveal in “Taken In.” The dangerous reminder in “Dynamite.” The untranslated language of the owls in one of my all-time favorite poems “Birdcalls.” How the poems speak to each other in their placement in this collection. The way the first poem introduces and the last poem concludes.

Like other poets I’ve been reading lately, including W.S. Merwin, I’m learning from Carlson-Wee that poetry doesn’t have be archaic and opaque and pompously clever to carry its revelation and mystery. There is heightened danger and wisdom in the matter-of-fact tone, multiple voices, quiet observation, the minimal use of adjectives and adverbs, a little humor, all stark details.

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