Todd Melicker’s poems arise from a spare economy of grace. His one or two word lines build poems made with care, not carefulness. Quiet, but deeply alert, Melicker’s poems register a world that the reader will recognize as, somehow, true. That is, the lineaments of this world (mountain, deer, aspen, ash, mouth, earth, tongue) are coincident with the landscapes in which we walk and the bodies with which we perceive. At the same time, Melicker reconfigures what we know to startling effect (“she was/born a//lull in/aspen,” “the palm/of my//tongue walks/through//the earth”) to demonstrate that our perceptions can be altered to grant access into unfamiliar terrain.
Subtle quirks of diction, as in “counting/mountains//writeth deer” or the title “They put their mouths up to the heavens, which, by and by brief imaginings, doth take away” suggest a certain archaism as though Melicker’s lyricism translates experience from both temporal and geographic distance. His willingness to employ a theologically charged lexicon—“heaven,” “holy”—frame these poems as psalms. What makes them striking and memorable is that they are psalms that undo psalmody and leave the reader in a state of suspension, “a//possess-/ive//holy/won’t.” By stepping aside from conventional gracefulness, these poems achieve something more odd and more memorable. Their articulations come from a tongue that “spills/from leaves//as they could encase.”