Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Poetic Bit of Holiday Cheer

So as to be sure to be the one this holiday season who gives the gift to your friends who will listen, or the one who throws it in the face of your more-conceded ones, remember this name: Chris Dombrowski. I ask, “were there ever more fulfilling proclamations in the English language than, ‘I told you so!’ or ‘I knew him before he was him!’?” And being an advocate of chest-puffing via other writers’ work myself, I can assure you Chris’ is surely one to remember.

Already a well-known poet throughout the Missoula and greater Montana writing community, I ran into his poetry through a class specifically focused on current Montana writers. Although I’ve enjoyed the class, it has tended toward more regionalist writings, a style I’ve never been too highly fond of, and so, from Chris, I wasn’t expecting much more than another few elk poems outside of Dillon or stanzas comparing the Gallatin and Clark Fork — but what I discovered was something far greater.

Writing in the same poetic styling as Billy Collins, Chris takes his local knowledge, his precise eye for detail, both in nature and in his home, and is able to uncover that in it which takes on the full spectrum of human emotion: the confusion, mystery, and beauty that are all interlaced aspects of the human condition. And yet, what I love most about Chris’ poetry is not necessarily their applicable content, but the means by which this relevance is achieved, the completely fresh, unique, and often startling way he is able to contrast and relate these interwoven facets of human life. In his poem “Get Up, John”, a piece on the struggle of growing older, and a new personal favorite, Chris sharply compares himself to his young son in the lines:

“But the yearling child
reaching into the lineaments of sun
lancing between his crib bars—how might
this shame us, that they seem
to seem graspable to him?”

And in other poems, including “Fragments with Dusk in Them”, the title poem of his recently-published chapbook, and “Landscape with Scavenger and Bonelight”, another new personal favorite, Chris is able to achieve this same universal sentiment through his poignantly harrowing descriptions of the otherwise simple and often mundane scenes around him. It’s simple to say that, speaking as a student, to know his name would be a great benefit in any dinner-table conversation on current literature, but speaking more-prominently as a writer myself, I’d say that beyond knowing his name, knowing Chris’ poetry is a gift any poet-enthusiast would love to receive this holiday season.

Jacob Kahn is currently a sophomore at the University of Montana in Missoula. He is studying Creative Writing, and loves nothing more than a good book of poetry and prose.

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