Calenture

Kent Shaw, Calenture
Publisher: University of Tampa Press
2008, 89 pages, paperback, $12

kent shaw's calenture creates what its title signifies: a delirium causing sailors to believe the ocean is an endless pasture. As readers move through this rich debut volume, they find themselves entrenched in a poetics and a spirituality that is numbingly effortless in form and thought. Punctuation is nowhere to be found, and only glimpses of firm narrative occasionally sparkle.

Early in the book, Shaw writes:

there is an anatomy to trust     like anger
& then the persuasion of anger

meaning I can hold anything dear
if it is only to watch how it would disintegrate
in the flame     a love
that could only be loved because it was likely to end

Trust, faith, desire, and other modes of worldly existence are continually challenged throughout the collection, and the reward is not finding answers, but rather discovering new questions. By adroitly withholding information, Shaw does just that.

With glimpses of blunt directness, still more questions emerge. Take the following passage: "[W]hat this love means is the spring when the world is so abundant / it seems a neverending indulgence to this town / like commerce and like rain." Shaw asks what exactly constitutes "too much," and further, what do we do with it. He continues such thought in another poem, writing: "[I]t is so much like sorrow     this God // who provides in abundance / and he may provide too much in abundance." If indeed there is too much, Shaw skillfully omits just enough, leaving his readers at the very least engaged.

-Trey Moody

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