This Week, I Read Preston Smith: Red Rover, Red Lover

Image Credit: Duncan Kidd via Unsplash

“You & I—precarious pronouns/that I will never tire of using,” the speaker says in Preston Smith’s chapbook, Red Rover, Red Lover. This book is packed with dreamy, enchanting love poems with the perfect dash of mythology.

In the poem, “A God of Oracles and Light,” the speaker says:
“I read myths of the man tied to the sun/that bathes my neighbor’s farm/every morning. I hide behind bales/of hay, pretend to be a kid again. ” There’s this lovely sense of returning home here. The speaker finds connection and comfort in the myth of Apollo, the god of the sun, and also fittingly, the god of poetry.

“When the day is done and stars/break through the god’s screen of light,/I hear Delphi beckon
through a star’s crooked smile,” the speaker says, taking the reader off of Earth. Here, the poet is transported through reading, taking the reader with him.

“I plant/my books in the hollow of a haybale/whose insides I’ve scooped out/like my neighbor’s pumpkins./I kick moon shards/that my neighbor calls gravel/& flee toward the sister/of the myth until daybreak.” I love how this poem is about the idea that reading can take someone anywhere. The reader has lived more lives than one. They have traveled farther than any other human has gone before.

The poem itself has a pastoral feel, yet it’s modern and new. The speaker is both reader and Apollo. There’s a sense of wonder in the piece that really drew me in. It’s a testament to Smith’s work that he was able to take ancient myths that everyone knows, and then he’s created a body of work that is completely original. He makes the myths feel new. Red Rover, Red Lover a tender book that is a shot of serotonin. Smith’s poetry is lovely and enchanting. It pairs well with a cup of Earl Grey Lavender tea.

I highly recommend this book, which is available now through Roaring Junior Press.

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