chad sweeney


Parable of a Lazy Reader

A latent review of Parable of Hide and Seek (Alice James Books) by Chad Sweeney.

I have a confession to make. I’ve been a rotten reader. In six months, I’ve read two novels, a few sporadic articles, and maybe one or two books of poetry—cover to cover. Maybe I don’t belong here. Maybe I’m an impostor in the ranks. But, whatever.

That said, I have my reasons for shelving my skillz for more potent, if untenable, desires.

Lately, as I’m climbing back into my reading chair and remembering how comfortable it can be, I feel this way:


I’ve looked for it under tables
among junkyard cats
fussing dead things.

Its letters turn
with barrow birds
in sleeves of warehouse glass.

It rattles
the pampas grass,
one dry word seven summers long.

I’ve knelt in the twilight of idols.
I’ve chipped my teeth
on the bright water.

This is the final poem of Chad Sweeney’s book, Parable of Hide and Seek. “Its letters turn / with barrow birds / in sleeves of warehouse glass.” Read that aloud. Do you hear the rhythm? Do you see the fragility of language in the shards of warehouse glass?

Sweeney’s book is swimming in these charged moments. Its one of those twenty-five or so books I’ve had stacked on my desk to review for months, one of those books I’ve picked up sporadically and read a poem at a time. What I’ve discovered through my stunted reading practice is this: Duh, a good book of poems wants reading—and, sure, poets (and their friends and editors) spend a lot of time sequencing poems in a collection, thinking about narrative structure and flow—but Parable of Hide and Seek has convinced me that a good book of poems wants each of its individual poems savored, wants its vertices studied, wants you to read a poem to your dog each night before bed—more than it wants you to read it cover to cover with a fabricated purpose.


January 17th, 2011 / 3:36 pm