That longing pervades Flowers That Die, as the poet surveys the splendor of California, the majesty and loneliness of the heavens (“if I were the moon / how beautiful my solitude would be and my scars, a revered imagination”), and the quietude and isolation of a city during a storm. “Storm”’s evocative lines “unflinching, the pigeons / tuck their heads to their chests” stirs reminders of the heron in Elizabeth Bishop’s “Little Exercise,” another poem that finds tremendous feeling in the natural world without giving in to the pathetic fallacy.
While this collection of spare free verse feels bound together in theme, form, and tenor, sometimes to the point of repetition, Halpin touches on a range of other topics as well. Especially powerful is the fruitfully elusive “Soul Drumming,” which against a “bloodred sacred sunset” links music, heartbeats, bird song, environmental devastation, and more into a searching, searing whole. The “sad boy” persona might strike some readers, at times, as a playful mask, but it does not diminish the real pain and beauty that pulses throughout this engaging, accessible collection.
Takeaway: An inviting collection of sharply etched verse that finds a “sad boy” facing the world.
Great for fans of: Elizabeth Bishop, Mary Oliver.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B+