Nick Courtright’s collection of poems, Punchline, has been published by Gold Wake Press and is a riveting read. Nick Courtright was born in Ohio and currently lives and teaches in Austin, Texas and is also the interviews editor for the Austinest. His work has appeared in journals including The Southern Review, the Boston Review, and his chapbook, Elegy, has been published by Blue Hour Press. Punchline is a philosophical collection of poems that reaches into the large and the small, from the universe down to the atom. It is a living, breathing collection and I am happy to share a few poems with you:
You at outside the old house and there
Learned of paint
and shelter and the meaning of roofs
when they reveal their feelings about being
shield against the rain, a protector.
Now the sky is a wide cloth above
and the moment outside
has become me. It will rain so hard
the whole idea of wet will change—
we are all being waited for, we are all the analogy.
You believe in free will
and then one day so does
one atom of the gum-covered underbelly
of a forty year old desk
and who is affecting who?
Maybe that one atom is responsible
for the whole room around it
as a human is for the galaxy, the awful galaxy.
In that case, slow down,
I think this is a beautiful poem. Mr. Courtright introduces us to the concept of shelter by way of an old house and then the meaning of shelter against an open sky which becomes a wide cloth which is another version of shelter. Then we come to free will and our choice to be in that open sky and how free will may be within a single atom. That single atom can effect the entire galaxy, something so small against something so large. In this poem we get to contemplate the stars and the sky that we seek shelter from and how small things have an impact on larger things.
The room is full of flowers,
the flowers are on the wallpaper,
they subsume the walls into flowerness,
there is a person watching the flowers,
I watch the flowers.
Tomorrow, thank you for existing.
So many people are waiting in line, so many people
for all eternity waiting,
so many waiting people.
In this poem I can picture the poet sitting and observing the room around him at a funeral home. The flowers from loved ones blur into flowers on the wallpaper, the thought of tomorrow with the deceased absent and the words “thank you” strike me. Especially when the next and final three lines are about people waiting, perhaps waiting to join the deceased in the afterlife. Here the wake inspires the poet to observe his surroundings and contemplate the idea of people waiting their turn to view the deceased one last time or perhaps waiting their turn.
The seawater sloshes relentlessly
against the green pier, calling God under its breath, God,
and nothing changes.
I have a feeling
if I moved
even a bit—
if I could move—
it would be like the loose thread on an old argyle sweater
which, pulled, sends
spiraling into non-existence.
The poet observes his surroundings and imagines changing, shifting, the universe. I love poems like these because I can picture myself lost in thought, too, listening to the ocean waves and thinking about life, death, and the universe. This poem does and creates a backdrop for us to imagine ourselves in, a view of the green pier and the water sloshing in such a way that it seems to be talking. This is another beautiful poem.
If you enjoyed this sample you may purchase a copy of Punchline for $12.95 through Barnes and Noble and published by Gold Wake Press go to:
To learn more about Nick Courtright please visit his website at:
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