Paternity by Scott Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'm entranced with Scott Owens’ latest book, Paternity. After three readings, my admiration only grew. The core subject of his book is his relationship with his daughter, Sawyer, but poems are also included about his stepsons as well as his father’s bad parenting. I’m not a parent, but I don’t need to be in order to enjoy both the expert craftsmanship of these poems as well as their magic. It’s both a book of the love of a father for his daughter and at the same time, a type of atonement for his own father’s failings. By being a better father, Owens walks away from the ghosts of his past into a better now of his own creation.
From On The Days I Am Not My Father
I don’t yell. I don’t hold inside
the day’s supply of frustrations.
My hands stay open all day.
I don’t wake tired and sore,
dazed from senseless, panicking
dreams. On the days I am not
my father I hold my son
when he cries, let him touch my face
A poet friend, after reading this book, wrote me that he would assign Paternity as a textbook for poetry students were it up to him. I completely agree. Every word, every phrase, every break is carefully thought out. And the poems sing, just as Owens describes singing to Sawyer on his cell phone to the amusement of passers-by.
This passage from The Word for What Only 4-Year Olds Can See is moving:
Today my daughter made up a word,
effuctress, to explain why I couldn’t see
the rainbow bird outside the window.
Effuctress, she says, are things
that can only be seen by 4-year olds.
I would recommend this book to parents and non-parents, lovers of good poetry. The first group will identify. The latter will be inspired to be better people. Both will aspire to become better poets.
From The Hours 7 PM
I no longer bathe with you.
No Gary Snyder, I grow self-conscious
as you fixate on differences,
but I still hold on to this time
of washing things away.
Scott Owens has published five poetry collections before Paternity and is editor of The Wild Goose Review. His work has received numerous awards and two Pushcart nominations. Paternity was published by and can be purchased at Main Street Rag.
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