Nightsongs & Clamors is a great exemplar of what Adorno called “late style.” Michael Anania’s poems have always been notable for their imagistic precision and delicacy of emotion, but the new poems are distinguished by the extreme condensation and taut sound structure of their minimalist tercets and quatrains. The poet sets his scene, often in the West of his birth, rapidly—“yucca, blue flax, / pinions and their / shadows, snakeweeds”—and then goes on to draw meditative depth from what Pound would call his “luminous detail.” Such poems as “Durations” recall George Oppen in their extreme care for every word, line break, internal rhyme and their understated expression of desire. These Night Songs amply compensate for whatever insomnia or “clamor” may have led to their composition. Their graceful obliquity is a perfect testament to “this / invented time filled/ with refracted light.”
Michael Anania’s Nightsongs & Clamors is filled with the music of night and the cacophony of days. It is as if the poet’s mind is a river punctuated by moments in time, and those moments gathered together pulsate in every poem. Water permeates everything, for as the poet says, “Water because it is our beginning.” The sea, “rivers and their dark luster,” lakes—they all give the poet his conduit to the recollections of a lifetime, especially the gorgeous “Omaha Appendices,” an evocation of a world that is gone but lives on the pages of this book. Be prepared to swoon as you sail on Anania’s river of words.
In this new collection, Nightsongs & Clamors, Michael Anania draws on Dante, Stevens, Creeley, Ashberry and others who recognized the importance of grounding verse in precise and keen observation of the moment voiced in everyday speech, the vernacular of the physical world. These poems move with the buoyancy of sound, the lightness of touch, and the quickness of mind that we have come to expect from Anania for more than five decades of aesthetic engagement with felt life. A fitting and fine achievement.
—Jeffery Renard Allen