I didn’t mind the wordiness of the poems in the collection because they were rich with detail, enough so to keep me reading on to the next line and next. Some examples I particularly liked are the rich details about being at the race track in “Perfecta” since I’ve gone to the race track many times and the opening line to Mountain Town, “Sometimes hell looks beautiful.”
I have a harder time with some of the longer selections such as the poem “Lights and Mysteries” where I have to show patience to find the connections between sets, often because when I read poetry, I want to be able to take a quick read of one poem and set it down and walk away, while the longer poems require a deeper, longer immersion. I am attracted to the idea of how some of these poems work and using them in my own work. I’ve noticed that there are different ways that poem series are made, i.e. connected times as in the poem “Light and Mysteries”, or with a personal connection as in “Sister”, or associated ideas like in “On My Street” where each stanza addresses a different aspect of life on the street.
Most of Thomas Centolella’s poems do tell a story, all with a reflective moment that said, what I am doing here, and how I’m reacting are larger than the immediate sensing and why. The twists often come related to that why, by this I mean the poem changes with this understanding of how emotional state relates to an ideal state. A good example of this is The Orders which has two turns, first when two buddies are talking together in a car when God “put a gun to the head of my friend” and then a second time when their neighbor’s arrival saves them and between there, the poet realizes “Suddenly time was nothing.”
The first poems all relate to a love relationship where the narrator and a woman seem to share a sense of love and experience but they don’t quite know where it will go. As It Was in the Beginning seems to show the narrator and his lover mid love making as a form of prayer. Toward the end of the section, it is clear that the relationship ended, but the narrator is still in touch with the poetry inside himself. So this section seems to be linearly arranged in time, i.e. this happened, then that.
Two poems I found I liked to use as emulations include Addis Abada, and In the Evening We Shall Be Examined on Love; here's a link to Thomas Centolella's readings of these poems.
The next section opens with the poem that titles the collection and it is one of the longer poems series narrative tales where the poet seems to be going back in time to his childhood experiences via maybe a visit to his former school. In this poem, Lights and Mysteries, the narrator is reflecting on the question of what makes life matter, if we’re all going to die anyway, as seen through various a series of incidents that occurred, perhaps linearly in time.
I think here, the meaning of the title becomes clearer. Where the poet is mystified about some aspect of life, he delves deeper into the question, either by sharing what he learned from an incident or discovered along the way. The first section appears to be the mystery of what makes a relationship work and how do you let go once a relationship doesn’t work or ends. The second section appears to be linear, with a gradual progression in life leading to interest in spiritual matters. A key turning point occurs with the poem, Gentleman of the Century which concludes, “… so I’ve become human again.” I think these words seem to signify the poet is able to connect his desire to connect experience to feelings to a search for more meaning found in poetry or meditation.