The poems in John Pleimann’s Come Shivering to Collect live and move and have their being in a world that is both twilit and sacred. Speakers wrestle with memory’s power to obsess and distort, to haunt, and to evoke. They discover that life mocks happiness, and the only thing sacred is to be vulnerable.
The voices in these poems look for salvation in the seasonal aisle at Walgreens, in stray dogs that never come home, in the destitute and downtrodden, in the dead, who—in T.S. Eliot’s words—seem stuck in a “time of tension between dying and birth.”
Belief in the power of words to heal—and a profound fear for what they veil—propel these poems. As one persona says: “What don’t need no grammar saves you.”
The speakers here muse on what words are after, as if they have lives of their own: “There’s nothing words can’t keep from you, no emptiness / around you words can’t flesh out. . . .” What’s the poet to do who suspects words know more than he does, that words follow him, hollow him, and fill in what he lacks?
These poems reveal that we are words on our knees “come shivering to collect.”
Pleimann confronts the difficulty, confronts the shock of the unknown-brought-forth, confronts the swervings and close-calls that equal each waking day, that equal a life in poem after brilliant poem.
Eric Pankey, Professor of English, Heritage Chair in Writing, George Mason University
The poems in Come Shivering to Collect brilliantly display that ‘within restraint lies great intensity,’ as William Butler Yeats observed. The compression of each line in these poems as it unfolds, enfolds, and refolds the language tells us something that we have never heard before. The beauty of the execution is often so direct, often so simple, it can turn a simple child’s game of ‘you’re it’ into a revelation of aging, loss, and alienation. Come Shivering to Collect is poetry at its finest.
Walter Bargen, first Poet Laureate of Missouri
John Pleimann is a magician of words that come alive on the page, like the child in the title poem who shows up at his door to collect, but instead ends up giving him a prized stone and an unforgettable poem. Pleimann is not only an astonishing poet, but a memorable teacher who opens the curtains of the page to reveal unexpected truths.
Howard Schwartz, author of The Library of Dreams: New & Selected Poems 1965–2013
These finely crafted poems explore the rich diversity of life and do not shrink from the harsh realities of divorce, bewilderment, homelessness, or the stray dogs left behind. The poems are sometimes heartbreaking but also compassionate as they lean toward hope of rescue, of redemption. He understands that words are like snakes we sleep with and handles them carefully.
Michael Hogan, author of In the Time of the Jacarandas