Ten Commandments, by J.D. McClatchy

Ten Commandments - J.D. McClatchy

Truth is whatever darkness we choose to ignore. (from "Descartes' Dream")

 

This book of poems grew on me. It's highly structured around the ten commandments, each section beginning with a short introductory poem, followed by about two to three poems related to that commandment, many formal (as in, written in form). At first I found most poems dull, with expected lines or images. But particular sections stood out, and I'm wondering if I just needed to acclimate myself to the writing because by the end I at least liked each poem. My favorite sections were Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother and Thou Shalt Not Steal. I found some poems in form impressive (the ghazal and pantoum in particular); at other times I wished the book was "messier," but that's just my aesthetic. I have the feeling if I reread, I'll find myself liking earlier poems I'd dismissed, too.

 

FYI, though the book uses the ten commandments, I wouldn't call it "religious." The poems are riffs on and interpretations of the commandments, but run the gamut content-wise, with several focusing on mythology or figures from history or literature.