by Simon Pettet

Review by
Gary Parrish


British born, American transplant Simon Pettet's long awaited collection Hearth is now available from Ed Foster's Talisman House. The text accumulates over thirty years of Pettet's poetic voice, bringing to light a fully comprised manuscript. The poems presented live with a strong sensibility of what the American "ear" acts and sounds like in conversation and thought. How language reflects myth and "being" and how common colloquialisms are taken and given in everyday speech. Pettet's poetic process is honed in prosody, built with filters that sift through hundreds of notebooks and scraps of paper to find the genuine article. Pettet manufacturing stanzas, walking around the streets of NYC (circa late 70's and on) perpetually in change, the people and climate from block to block; years rolling down through the pages. At the end of it all, the poet in meditation, third mind juncture with pen and paper.

A key component of Hearth's text is the economy of the poems and the straightforward approach that Pettet issues into syntax (the poet strays from abstraction and is immune to the Language Schools). We find the snapshot-ear at work in a beautiful, lyrical, present mind that coordinates into ornate and well-crafted pieces, in the same lineage as Raworth, Creeley, and A. Hollo.

Excerpt from "Jazz":

First of May, everything
conjugates the verb "to love" (amo)
Here are the roses
I am not in the middle of speaking
of anything else

The multiple translations of love are quintessential of Pettet's aim. At heart, mindful of his environment on and off the page, with eyes "shopping for images" to divulge a deeper meaning; a shared, remembered sentiment.

Some of Pettet's poems can be deconstructed to common elements: Love (as said just before), Muse (physical or otherwise), Planetary movements, and Nature (external and internal, and many birds). Lines often held together with humor and sometimes a sense of dark and light shared equally, as in the poem that follows.



I eat








I am


and you?

We read the dark comedy of a protagonist speaking up through the earth. In TOMBSTONE, humor is evoked with sober reflection and fused with a point of contact that breaks from the linear composites of life and loneliness. So many poems in Hearth have an even keel and on-the-level quality that shines as they stand and walk from the page and bring into view a lavish cast of characters. Hearth includes dedications to Harris Schiff, Frank Sherlock and Brenda Coultas; insights on Dante and Virgil; and the sparkling water between a madman poet living in tandem with his psychiatric nurse. Pettet also includes himself as subject:


thin white sparrow-haired chest
bare khaki fatigues (borrowed)
pale face complexion fair
sweat wet hair summer's heat
on comfortable green chaise lounge (once borrowed)
at two in the morning…

The poems in Hearth are totally awesome and a pleasure to read. Believe it, whether picking up Pettet's work for the first time, or the hundredth, a new detail will emerge. Reward?, A brighter sense that in these dark times love is at the nearest corner bar. If the universe is always on time, then the poetic universe is set to Pettet's pocket watch, keeping the beat with the best of them.

Corresponding with poets in the vicinity, from Ginsberg living above “in a cold water flat” to chatting with Voznesensky about the quality of American oranges. Pettet’s life encompassing the rich history he accumulates in diaspora, accumulated in Hearth and in his own personal heaven.