James Bourey reviews DeWitt Clinton's Hello There

Hello There


By DeWitt Clinton

Published by Word Poetry, 2021

ISBN: 978-1625493-927

We often read poetry that is missing the essential element of “noticing.” The poet may be too invested in pushing a social or political agenda, or too wrapped up in self-analyzing, or drifting off into the realm of the hopelessly abstract. DeWitt Clinton never commits those crimes against poetry. In this fine collection, Hello There, Clinton notices everything. And with the noticing, he builds striking poems that consider big questions about aging and dying, love, and what it is to be human. It’s difficult to pull pithy quotes from this author’s poems because the lines lead, in such a finely tuned way, from one to another. But in this rather lengthy quote from his poem Study Guide: “The Fall of Icarus” for Ms. Hansen’s English 9 Power Slide 7 (written in the persona of a high school student) we learn something about artistic “noticing.”

Well, a lot more things are noticed

By the artist, for example he likes

White cliffs, and white clouds, and

White sunlight, and white sails and

White sheep and white shirts and

White towns but he did a pretty

Good job with a couple of dabs

Of red. Where did he get that red?

But Clinton also makes journeys that explore smaller questions that help with the “big” questions: how to look at a painting (as in the Icarus poem), what are the dangers of falling on ice, even how some conversations can resemble the inside of a spinning clothes dryer. This author is sometimes appropriately fatalistic as he considers death, then, soon after, he’ll take a more optimistic approach to what comes next.

Clinton is an experienced person (a polite way of saying he’s firmly in the ranks of senior citizens) and, as such, he has several interesting poems with a sharp awareness of the aging process. On Appr