A Celebration of Life’s More Delicate Details
This review was originally published September, 2018 for Vocal.Media. It may have been subject to some editing changes.
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Michael T. Young’s poetry book, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, reads as the notebook of an obsessive naturalist who is desperate to record every last detail found in the world around him. It can be said that the utter essence of Young’s collection is revealed through the speaker’s comments in “Spy Game;” this book of poetry is simply the elegant translation of “…an entry in the sidewalk’s journal…” which had previously been “…scripted in rainwater…” Young is intensely fascinated with the finer points of daily life, especially those details that often end up slipping unnoticed through even a keen observer’s fingertips.
He asks in the piece, “Study for Infatuation”:
And what might have happened
had you turned your back
on this sunset, this rotting
fence post, this dandelion
dripping its yellow
into the cracks along the gutter?
In short, Young’s poetic verses are a celebration of the minute, with its delicate beauty, and the infinite outcomes that such minutiae make possible in the macrocosm which is the world. A single grain of rice can tip the scales after all.
Readers will find themselves filled with a delicious sense of glee when they feast their eyes upon the first piece, “Advice from a Bat.” This body of verse is as flighty and clever as its cunning subject. The poem provides a thrilling inspiration with such lines as “…defy even your own expectations…” and “…cultivate the myths about you / until every predator fears your legend.” Enthralled with such a strong opening, readers may find themselves a tad disappointed as they turn page after page. While there are by no means, any “bad” examples of poetry tucked away within the book’s covers, there are pieces which could cause the readers’ minds to wander off and think of their taxes or scheduling a Lyft—the minutiae of their own lives—instead of remaining focused on the page before them.
While Young is certainly an accomplished poet perhaps he could learn a lesson from his beloved muse, water. In the poem which is the book’s namesake, “The Infinite Doctrine of Water,” readers receive this sage advice: “Whatever trinkets you pick up, / soften them in your hands, shaping them / with the gentle art of friction…” In the world of poetry, that “gentle art of friction” is synonymous with the ever essential editing process. If Young were to have released The Infinite Doctrine of Water as a chapbook instead, with only his best pieces presented, he would have easily created a masterpiece. It could have a been work that flowed through a reader’s thirsting spirit indefinitely. Or, as”The Voice of Water” states more concisely, “even after you’ve closed the book / it keeps reciting the lines.”
It must be acknowledged that every poem within this book will bring chills to the spine as “The Voice of Water” or “Advice From a Bat” do, but there are several which are quite soothing to the mind with their gentle ruminations of the everyday. Young’s pieces celebrating water, the life source of his work as it were, are, in a word, sublime. Any reader will find their lives enriched upon reading these well crafted pieces which contain “…images and colors / radiant with struggle.”
Published in 2018, The Infinite Doctrine of Water is Young’s most recent collection; it can be purchased directly from his publisher, Terrapin Books or on Amazon.com. He has also produced two other full volumes of poetry, The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. Lovers of poetry looking to learn more about this insightful and observant craftsman of words can follow him on GoodReads.com.
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