Review of WE by Lowell Jaeger


Poems by Lowell Jaeger
Main Street Rag, 2010

WE is a glimpse of the extraordinary, hidden within seemingly mundane everyday lives, and Lowell Jaeger gives us beautifully constructed portraits of the people you may not notice rushing to catch your bus or pushing past on a street when late for an appointment.

The titles alone reveal the objects of his scrutiny: “regular guy,” “stroke survivor,” “the wives,” ”dad,” and “door to door jesus.”

But what Jaeger gives his reader is something that transcends any idea of a lofty introspection. It’s quite the opposite. Jaeger solidifies this idea of exploring the seemingly simple and takes us deep into where these people live, how they work, and who they might be in a way that creates connections to us all.

In “If They Blow,’ the reader is dropped into the middle of a conversation as if we were eavesdropping in a crowded room full of strangers:

If They Blow

“…run for shelter, Dad said.
Means Krushchev’s launched his warheads.
I’d asked: Why the yellow horns on a tower
atop the grandstand’s roof? (31)

In “we all know trouble when we see it” the dialogue is realistic and so regionally dense that I was brought back to sitting in a diner as a kid fascinated by the chatter of the adults around me; a place of no secrets where verbal clues alone become the vehicle to understanding:

“Birdie snags the waitress to question
this or that about the bill. Silly,
but I hold my breath to listen…” (81)

“every mother” gives us the gruffness of the man, the tirelessness of the woman and the obliviousness of the children where a mere car breakdown can create a whole new level of frustration in an already exhausted day:

Try it again, the man shouts
like he’s peeved at her
when his machine won’t go.
He adds a string of curses,
drops his wrench, and she’s on the spot
with a wad of Kleenex
to nurse torn knuckles.” (19-20)

Lowell Jaeger’s WE is a collection of portraits that give us an inside view of people at their everyday tasks, errands, and jobs, but these characters become so much more than that by the end of the book. This is a contemporary view of who we are, where we come from, and where so many of us really live. WE is a beautifully crafted poetry collection with intimate language, densely sketched /images, and as realistic a viewpoint as any observer could discover. I have become a fan.