May 4, 2007

Mystery of the Commonplace: Many Loves by Michael Hettich

Florida poet“My small library,” as my wife likes to call it, has many books that I was forced to read in graduate school and that I’ll never read again, books that I’ve read once or twice and will probably read again, and a few that I read over and over again. Michael Hettich’s latest collection, Many Loves, is becoming one of those books that I am reading over and over again. From the opening poem, “Housekeeping,” to the closing “Joy,” Hettich’s evocative language draws us into the mystery of the commonplace. Whether he is describing his children while they are sleeping:

inside their bodies, in some other fragile world
that will vanish as soon as we wake them, which makes it
all the more precious and necessary


or folding clothes,

I loved pushing my face into bath towels and sheets

and breathing deeply while she talked, wanting

to tell her I'd done this or that, yearning

to ask her what she knew,

"Like a Man"

there is always a sense of wonder. The Zen Buddhist scholar Shunryu Suzuki' spoke of the “beginner’s mind,” and it refers to “having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject,” and being able to experience the world anew in every waking moment. Michael’s poems do that. And they also open up to the experience of mortality.

I opened my grief, the secret life explains

as though it were a trunk of old clothes

found in someone's attic, fashions my parents'

parents outgrew.

"Middle Age"

But, perhaps, the greatest strengths of the collection are Hettich’s command of language, his ability to seduce with his honesty, and the way he invites us into a world of stasis and wonder that seems beyond our imagination, but is actually at our fingertips:

This morning the wind shakes the tops of the fruit trees--

key lime, mango, carambola, avocado.

It blows down the fruit that was too high to reach:

Ripe fruit, bruised but tasty, lies scattered in the grass.

"The Windfall Fruit"

Many Loves, Winner of the Third Annual Yellow Jacket Press Chapbook Contest for Florida Poets, is a beautiful collection and is available @ Yellow Jacket Press or


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