Reviewed by Shaun Turner
Lee Passarella’s collection of poems, Redemption, focuses on quiet revelations—frost-bent daffodil in mid-March, mother dog nursing hungry pups, box kite adrift over the ocean. Passarella chooses these images, both bare and beautiful, to show us moments of revelation. His poems take us on a journey of perception, deepened by surprising metaphors, classic nuance, and an agile wit.
By separating his collection into three distinct sections, Passarella takes the reader on a path. His first section, “Living in a Museum,” focuses on where knowledge of past history (both cultural and familial) blends with moments of contemplation. Passarella paints landscapes with sharp vividity, a voice from experience. In a poem titled “Augury,” Passarella parallels the speaker’s life experience with the image of two vultures “as bag ladies,” their “wings folded back / into two brief hunches … Omens not of death / but worse. Of life.”
The poems are deftly rendered, often playing with form and function.
In his second section, “Comic Relief,” he takes time to poke fun at the maudlin, celebrating both the need to find meaning and the peace in looking at a world free from yet bound to allusion. Passarella’s working of a villanelle, “Too Much,” is ironic, funny, and unflinching.
This path ends with the final section, “Redemption,” in which Passarella looks at these moments of revelation, these evocative images and moments of wit, to turn to a declaration of hope. In one poem, “Wild Turkeys Near Robertstown,” Passarella finds a certain beauty in this “clutch” of placid turkeys like “dark-robed monks in a conclave,” their brown chests dotting the gray roadside.
Like his robin in the last poem of the collection, “Sight-Reading Schumann’s ‘The Prophet Bird,’” Passarella “contemplat[es] the infinite ocean of the self,” tells his own story through these poems both fictional and nonfictional, finding the moments of clarity only retrospect can provide.
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