Book Review: "Velocities" by Stephen Dobyns | Tuesday is the first day of fall. This time of year reminds critic Abigail Deutsch of Stephen Dobyns' "How to Like It" — a poem about a man who ponders his lost summers and fleeting dreams.


Book Reviews

For The Autumnal Equinox, A Poem As Chilling As The Fall Weather

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Each week for the last few months, we've been bringing you reading recommendations based on the news. Well, today a break from what's been a heavy news cycle and some thoughts instead on the new season upon us. As we bid summer goodbye - the first day of fall is Tuesday - we asked poetry critic Abigail Deutsch to give us this week's Must Read.

ABIGAIL DEUTSCH: This time of year always reminds me of a wonderfully autumnal poem - "How To Like It" by Stephyn Dobyns begins with the line (reading) these are the first days of fall. It describes a man whose summer is long over. Old memories weigh on him and new adventures seem impossible. But still he has dreams. He envisions taking a road trip. The dusty smell of the car heater, the pine trees by the edge of the shoulder, the triumphant moment when, Dobyns writes, (reading) at dusk he'll crest a hill and there, filling a valley, will be the lights of a city entirely new to him. The fantasy is so rich you can see how badly he wanted to come true. It's heartrending. The man imagines all this movement while standing still, in front of his house with his dog. The dog can talk, and even though the man doesn't speak his desires out loud, the dog verbalizes its wishes. There are a lot of them. Let's go downtown and get crazy drunk, it says. Let's tip over all the trash cans we can find. Let's dig holes everywhere. Maybe the animal is revealing its owners most shameful desires. But the man generally ignores the dogs hopes. A poignant reflection of how he ignores his own as well. Dobyns ends with a final instruction from the pet (reading) the dog says let's go make a sandwich. Let's make the tallest sandwich anyone's ever seen. And that's what they do and that's where the man's wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator as if into the place where the answers are kept - the ones telling why you get up in the morning and how it is possible to sleep at night. Answers to what comes next and how to like it. This poem is an unsettling account of an unsettled man and as chilling as autumn weather.

SIEGEL: The poem is "How To Like It" by Stephen Dobyns. It was recommended by writer and critic Abigail Deutsch.

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