Thomas Kudla is an expert at deceptively-short and elegant poetry that, in a few deft words, shows the true deeper meaning behind simple things. His poetry is philosophical, wry, and full of an almost Sufi-esque lyricism that engages all the senses. The structure of the book, organized into neat categories but roaming all over the world of ideas, is an elegant one, and ends on a delicate grace note with the final poem. However, it is still possible to dip into the book at any place and find something thought-provoking to read.
Kudla is playful, haunting, tender and startling all at once – though occasionally a bit too cute, as with his poem titled “Oedipus” – “Too complex/to think of.” He can be coy and mysterious in places, and some of the references he makes, particularly in the color poems, may not be familiar to all readers, but the emotional tone is generally clear. As ever with poetry, though, a good deal of the reader’s response to it will be found in the reader’s own experiences and understandings – it’s a dialogue at its best, not merely an exposition.
These are poems worth taking time over, meditating on, chewing slowly in the mind and savoring. His religious references – mostly Christian, but with influences from other faiths as well – are complex, questioning, not oversimplified or unproblematic, and his poem titled “christian” is profound and poignant. Some of the best examples of his work are the tender address to “Venus”, the hopeful courage of “Phoenix,” the evocative desire of “Dionysus” and the sensual, intense “Rain” and “Sleep.” A number of the poems, like “Wisdom,” and “How”, are tiny, just a line or two, but they communicate volumes nonetheless.
COMMENCEMENT is a collection of small poems with large hearts, a work that will inspire much more thought and feeling than its short length suggests.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader