“…[W]e’ll never owe a thing to this nightlong world,” writes Keith Montesano, which might serve as the epitaph for this book as well as life. I did not want to like “Housefire Elegies.” The unrelenting horror of violent death. The nearly random juxtaposition and blending of mixed analogies and metaphors. But perhaps that was Montesano’s point–if there is nothing but violent meaninglessness, then the language should reflect it? For “God has nothing to do do with how tight you hold on” when the tsunami comes your way, or the plane crashes, or the criminal attacks, or the housefire burns. And you are lucky, perhaps you will “live out your days among us all, and escape before you ever know the meaning.”
This is not an enjoyable read–and it is not intended as such. There are good poems, sometimes clubbed to death by overweening focus on the violence–almost a pornography of violence. And the juxtaposition I mentioned sometimes takes a poem nearly off the rails. But if you live in the Untied States of gunfire and mass murder, this is a collection you should read. You will, of course, have to make your own meaning elsewhere.