Review: The Memory of Water

Issue #117
Spring 2012

Jack Myers’ posthumous book, The Memory of Water, contains many of his finest poems. Mark Cox, who assembled the manuscript with Jack’s widow, Thea Temple, provides a lucid and moving account of Jack’s life and work in his Foreword to the collection.

As was true for almost all of Myers’ books, the writer and speaker are indistinguishable. And this is one of their signal pleasures: the poems are good company—they have the voice of the man, a man by turns sage and comic, seeker and smart aleck, a person “sentenced to be bewildered” all his life (“Past Due”) and yet who thinks of his “soul as something like a scent” (“Plans”). This back and forth, the questioning and speculating, the concluding followed by doubting, keeps the reader comfortably off-balance, a dialogue with self that is never dull to witness and hear, due to Myers’ extraordinary diction and syntax. The Memory of Water is marked by curiosity and compassion, qualities explored in lines capable of lilting and grieving at the same time. Jack Myers was a master of the American idiom who charged common speech with mysterious and memorable phrases.

John Skoyles is the poetry editor of Ploughshares.