The poems in The Next Place inspect both the geographies of landscape and our own interior geographies. These poems find the borders where lives intersect, where the sight of a former lover evokes memories of “a bruised Volvo… skin that smelled like burned oil.” No matter who inhabits these poems, and a large cast moves through them—Chet Baker, King Lear, Isaac Newton, various friends of the poet, both living and dead—they inhabit a space where one world is always encroaching on the next. A boy contemplates holding up a store with his father’s gun, a student and teacher debate the ending of a Raymond Carver story, a father sees in his adopted daughter “a story built to parallel mine.” Through their wide range of subject matter, the poems in The Next Place assert as fascinating as the surface of this world is, it is only the beginning of what we need to understand this place and our existence in it.
Praise for The Next Place
In his new collection The Next Place, Al Maginnes weaves together stories and his own brand of extended figurative tropes to construct poems that speak wisely and with authenticity of this world in which none of us are “fully haunted or forgiven.” These new poems find beauty and solace in the idea that despite everything we can remain “willing / to risk burning and drowning at the same time” just to be here, experiencing this place and imagining the next, where lovemaking might offer “one way of resolving time” and each of us can hope to be or become “a player silent with the possibility of song.” In both their music and their wisdom, these new poems by Al Maginnes speak of places both “luminous and capable / of handling any hope.”
“If you want to write, you must court / the combustion,” Al Maginnes’ narrator instructs, and that is exactly what, poem after poem, this ambitious collection does, infused throughout with the heat and light—the sweat and spirit—of experienced wisdom. In collection after collection, Maginnes’ poetry digs deeper into his passions—for family, for community, for labor, for loss and love. The poems in The Next Place demonstrate depth of understanding and empathy with a breadth of reference that can intimately inhabit Shakespeare and Newton, the cosmos and “the last dive in town,” expertly crafted in luminously lyrical verse that aches and celebrates, and aches some more. The Next Place represents the best of what contemporary poetry can offer, and these are poems of not only a grown man, but of a good man. Reading them makes us better, too, because, the collection convinces us, that, in spite of the scars and the sacrifices, “we have no choice but to love.”
These poems may zoom in on the “small matters” of daily life, but Al Maginnes asks the big questions in The Next Place, questions of what a person leaves behind during a lifetime. In these poems of cemeteries, funeral pyres, fatherhood, and sobriety we encounter harbingers, ghosts, obituaries, and prayers. We are reminded that “[t]he myth says // we all get one more chance.”