Don Share’s latest collection, Squandermania, is a book of poems that are slightly death-haunted and studded with references to marriage and fatherhood, geology and biology. It also revives a luminous, if complex, domesticity – not something most men take as their subject. Its focus is the frenzied energy and unreal depression of living in a world at war with terror, and ultimately with itself. Here the paralysis of long-standing grief and fear combine with strange energy of trying to get by from day to day: “If these are the woods, / I'm not out of them yet.”
There are poems about the intimate household terrors of marital relations and questions raised by children about what happens in the world, and others woven from a tapestry of literary interactions with sources that range from Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and Bacon's essay On Building to the “rotten kid theorem.”
Proverbs cease to reassure as the poet monitors news about global warning, war, and other self-inflicted disasters. What William James called the "trail of the human serpent" that runs over everything has at least (and perhaps finally) brought us to a world in which, as Share describes it, "anti-depressants make certain people violently depressed; / testing a safer system causes reactors to explode; / more freeways create more traffic; / the power grid dims, powerless; / [and] antibiotics make stronger germs."
These poems of conscience and imagination record the struggle to continue living in a "glitterbound microcosm" amidst the impulses of maniacal squandering and ceaseless destruction.
‘Squandermania is a book of associative delight, even when the poems are at their most grave. They combine the obliquity of Mina Loy, the incantatory freshness of Roethke, and even Plath’s devotion to nursery rhyme to leaven the book’s prevailing tones of irony, sorrow, and regret. The poet’s awareness of how daily life refuses to cohere into a consoling pattern is beautifully mirrored by his conviction that language itself signals a fall from grace and unity and emotional wholeness. And yet the poet keeps faith with language by allowing language to drive the poems, even as the poet’s occasions and subject matter are grounded in what Hopkins called ‘the in-earnestness of speech.’’ —Tom Sleigh
‘Few poets manage such dexterous and fresh music.’ —Alice Fulton
‘A fine poet ...’ —Derek Walcott
‘Share's poems belong to earth and to air, to conscience and to imagination.’ —Rosanna Warren
‘Like those earlier singers, Whitman and Dickey, Don Share discovers again the distinctly American narrative ... I delight in the precision of these chiseled poems and in the sizeable, important ambition of Share’s imagination.’ —David Baker
‘Share is one of the more gifted craftsman we have writing in America today... There is something ultimately winning about the book’s lack of easy salutation, as well as a lot of sly amusement and good will to be found in the purposefully kvetchy parts. ‘Squandermania’ is a grownup book with grownup concerns, and it apologetically expects more of its reader than a permanently disconnected prose’ —Erin Belieu