Book Review: Trickster

So I lay on Stone’s belly And Stone warms me
~ Folklore

Trickster by Randall Potts

Trickster by Randall Potts is his second collection of poetry. Potts taught graduate and undergraduate courses at the University of San Francisco and the California College of the Arts. He has also attended Iowa Writers Workshop and his work has appeared in numerous poetry journals. 

Trickster is a collection of various styles of poetry. A narrative poem called “Pest” near the beginning tells of a man’s loss of a corner of his yard

…I see 
the Yellow Jacket’s nest, hung like a horn-of-plenty under the
wide leaves — a thread of Wasps spooling out its dark hole 
mumbling threats — 
a corner of the garden is no longer ours. 

Potts moves to “A Natural History”, a two part poem, that examines two sources of a meal in a much closer way than most people ever look at their food. “The Good Life” is a haunting poem in two parts. “Balance” reads, in part: 

I’m black & white. Bees hum gold. They swarm. I kneel in
grass. I try to be small. I feel bees on me. Too many Bees
Walking on me. A boy yells, “He’s Being stung –” But I’m not
stung. My eyes open,

I dream a reactor to ruin A dam to rubble —

“I go poorly” is a man bargaining with extreme cold. The cold wanting to “nibble” at parts of his body and the man resisting. Cold is hungry and won’t be denied its meal. 

Many poems look at nature or the natural world with a different eye. Poems about bees, ladybugs, and oyster harvesting. Some poems look at people:

Two women run on a beach, ecstatic: they are alive. Their hair
trails into clouds, become clouds. They rush on, their hands
part the air.
They are always just about to arrive. 

A few poems focus on none of the above, like the poem “Math”:

I put 0 and 0 together
And arrived at nothing
Nothing accomplished. I had done it perfectly.
I made 0 disappear into 0
I made sure nothing was left. There was no doubt of it.

The changing structure of the poems, from narratives to a haiku, and the variety of subjects combined with the unique viewpoint making Trickster an interesting and worthwhile collection. The subjects are common to most people and the style is of writing is accessible to nearly all levels of readers, but at the same time not too simple for regular poetry readers. Taking the ordinary and making it something more than ordinary for the reader creates a chance for the reader to look at something as different as a hornets nest, rain, or a snail in a new light. A very good collection of poems. 

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