My friend Chris Cessac is a man of many talents. We went to law school together, played in a band together, and did lots of immature things together. And throughout all of those times he showed himself to be a scholar, an innovative songwriter, a talented visual artist/cartoonist, and just a funny guy. And when law school ended and we went our separate ways, he remained true to himself and his muse(s), returning to Texas and finding a way to not only practice law, but to continue his artistry through poetry.
He received the Kenyon Review Poetry Prize for his first book, Republic Sublime (a now-unfortunately-out-of-print collection of staggering poetry). He has returned with his second book, entitled Eros Among the Americans, a collection of nineteen poems each named after a town in America. And as much as I loved Republic Sublime, I fell for this one even more. And not just because he dropped a reference to my hometown (Lorain) in the poem entitled “Laura, Ohio”. I loved this one because I think it shows growth in his writing style — growth, believe it or not, in the form of simplicity.
Republic Sublime was a gorgeous read, but being the simpleton that I am, I couldn’t profess to truly “get” all of the biblical, mythological, and historical references; I loved the words, but I can’t say that I understood all of them. Eros Among the Americans, on the other hand, is quite simply an ode to America and to all of the love and longing that its residents feel. Cessac’s gift for language is evident in every one of these poems, and I often found myself taking five minutes to read one short page because I wanted to concentrate on every single word, because every one mattered. I think it is somewhat of an injustice to pick apart any of these poems and try to break them apart for the sake of quoting portions of them, but I’m a hack and so I’m going to anyway. A few samples:
- We feel deceived and our own deceptions thus justified. (“Amor, Minnesota”)
- The goal is to be loved not loveable and they are not the same. (“Ovid, Michigan”)
- We keep poor records. What matters most happens so slowly no records are kept at all. (“Romance, Wisconsin”)
I’m not sure what more I can say. The book is published by Main Street Rag and is not expensive. For anyone who loves poetry, and for anyone who’s forgotten how beautiful poetry can be, treat yourself to this. Check out poem length samples here.