Volume 9 (Spring 2015)
Reading Doug Goetsch's fine new book, Nameless Boy, one has the experience of hanging out with a good friend maybe over a beer at a bar where Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones are on the jukebox and people settle in for the night knowing there will camaraderie and good stories. Like that beer, maybe an IPA, something with a good dose of hops making for acidity, spice, a lingering citrus finish, the poems offer a strong mix. As the speaker in "Today's World" plainly states, "I could sit here and bullshit you," and the directness of that line is indicative of the poems here. They could bullshit us; they could bury us in language and image and the frippery that lots of poets employ, but not in this book. There is a candor, an honesty, an absolute unwillingness to obfuscate in these poems. The speakers, as in the poem "Privilege," are more than willing to admit it when they are at a loss, "I wish I could tell the difference/ between entitlement and sacrament."
Again and again, there is that acknowledgement of what is not known, creating a voice well-trusted and often wry. Goetsch's poems frequently begin in humor. The poem "Upstairs," for example, opens with the speaker carrying a friend's sleeping son to his room. The speaker says "I could be rushing downstairs in another house cradling a Yorkshire Terrier/ but that's not how things have worked out." From this identification of the randomness of experience, the poem moves through observation to a closure where he speaks of "never having stepped so purposefully/as though climbing out of life's troubles/ into a cloud realm." That is what so many of the poems here do, they climb from humor into insight. The path from one to the other is often unexpected — providing a lot of the fun in these poems — but when we arrive at the insight, "laying down/ a body that could be anyone's," it is one full of a compassion that includes us all.
Nameless Boy by Doug Goetsch (Orchises Press, 2015)