Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: The God of Small Losses

Crist, Darla. The God of Small Losses. Georgetown, KY: Finishing Line, 2010. 28pp.

Something has irked me recently as I've been perusing the world of literary haiku: nobody seems to give the rigid 5-7-5 form much love. It's not so much that I want people to slavishly obey it (because, yes, it's only an adaptation of the Japanese rules). But I just don't tend to see many journals that actually print something that fits the pattern. We can serve art and meter at the same time, no?

Darla Crist seems to think so.

Her chapbook, The God of Small Losses, does examine the traditional nature themes of haiku, as in an excerpt from her series "The Insect Suite":

The firefly lodges
His complaint in the barley,
Sparks of loneliness:

Fireflies are scholars
of the language of lightning,
the Morse code of love.

But instead of allowing these natural observations to remain in the detached world of "nature poetry," she examines nature in situ, complete with the people who actually live in rural areas. And it's this quality of Crist's work that makes it so refreshing. Cherry blossoms and crocus bulbs are nice, but the impact of humankind dwells in that same landscape.

What It Means to Be Haunted

Solitary shoes
Asleep on the road's shoulder--
Whose feet once wore them?

One of my favorite poems from the bunch, "Powerball," is set not in an orchard or a meadow but in a mini-mart. Still, the levels of attention to detail are impressive, like the man "rubbing the tickets/ like rosary beads" and the description of "dreams and quarters together--/ mixed with Mountain Dew." She then makes a sweeping statement that could well be one of the best definitions of the Hoosier experience I've heard:

In lottery land,
Powerball is king, sporting
A belt made of corn.

The peace of traditional haiku is replaced with an anxious yearning to fill a spiritual void. Because the idyllic countryside that so many tourists come to visit during the Covered Bridge Festival hides poverty and stagnation beneath its rustic charm.

Trees and flowers and hills, yes. But also mini-marts and coal mines and laundromats.

The name of the book can be found in the poem "Laundromat," which I think is a good way to wrap up the review. Check out The God of Small Losses. It's a superb collection of poetry and a positive example of Hoosier regionalism.


Perfumed with soap, cheap
Cigarette smoke, many lives
Tumble together.

Children scrawl their names
On slates of glass and steam--
Tabula rasa.

The neighborhood creaks
With the weight of wet laundry,
Cylinders and drums:

A place of prayer
To the god of small losses--
Stockings without mates.



  1. I have been *dying* to read this once I get the funds. Any idea where I could find a copy? :)

  2. Catherine:

    Looks like Amazon has fixed the order page, so I'll link to it here and in the review: