BOOK REVIEW: Gathering Place by David Wyatt

Review by David Z. Drees

In Gathering Place, published by Wayne State College Press in 2016, David Wyatt uses a voice of almost candid nonchalance to address the complex, existential inquiry of some of life’s simplest moments. The result is a collection as authentically humorous as it is somber and reminiscent, a rumbling voice of a man “reviewing a life that took seconds / to complete” while inviting the reader to join him, to indulge, to “go about emptying the streets / of all but shadows, not knowing whether darkness / is a comfort or an insult to perception.”

In forty-nine pages, David Wyatt’s Gathering Place turns the binoculars on the ant hill, breathes philosophic depth into some of the most transient human experiences. In these poems, no moment is unworthy of reflection. Wyatt presents the memory of a “raven, half my size / I expected to say something I would / understand” as vividly as a son’s thoughts while burying his last parent, the recognition that, “Formality, even when it failed, made it easier to release the dead.” The balance is alluring, and because of it, Wyatt’s Gathering Place achieves a sense of deep cynicism, where one’s view on love can be reduced to “Of / the heart waiting for its chance to be heard, I say / what else is new?” while also motivating the reader to push on, to appreciate the moments we too often forget, or outright discard, to smile that “frost on the window this morning was a real surprise.”

The poems in Gathering Place are cerebral, driving the reader to pause, reread, perhaps pour a stiff drink, and reread again. The content is heavy, but it remains accessible due to Wyatt’s stylistic arsenal, a devotion to detail and character depiction that drives the poetry’s narratives. From “a family encamped under / a freeway overpass, a child waving at me / as if surrendering,” to a childhood friend who “died in a car wreck, / not drunk, after attending a basketball game,” Wyatt’s ability to abruptly humanize a character is an accomplishment, and he expertly rests this attribute against a consistent backdrop of original, organic imagery, a unity with the elements, a call to welcome “the breezes through / the hibiscus about to tell the fool that he is an innocent.”

Francis Bacon once stated, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” David Wyatt’s Gathering Place is a stirring example of the latter. Few collections can balance life’s inherent contradictions, love and loss, powerlessness and purpose, futility and appreciation, in the way Gathering Place has accomplished. Even fewer manage it with Wyatt’s eloquence and candor. David Wyatt’s Gathering Place is a collection true to its word, a human congregation “struggling against praise,” sure to leave “the audience laughing / as though the aisles are filling with tears.”

Gathering Place
David Wyatt
Perfect Paperback: 52 pages
WSC Press (November 2016)
ISBN: 978-0991013968