Winner of the 2000 Akron Poetry Prize
In Circle Routes, a navigational term, John Minczeski transports the reader to a series of places that often interconnect, whether they are as close as the poet’s back yard or as distant, in history and geography, as a Japanese concentration camp and the pungent streets of Rome. What links the poems, however diverse in subject and situation, is the poet’s sense of empathy, his intimate understanding of anyone who has had to make a moral decision and live with the consequences. And yet these poems neither preach nor swell with self-satisfaction. Their treatment of even the darkest theme is lyrical, affirming that no evil can eclipse a world in which one can still hear the smallest hum of life, as at the end of “Great Circle Routes”: “it’s the sound of bees mired / in quadratic equations of lilies, / sucking light from the blossoms.”
Circle Routes contains a recurring joyfulness that invites us into those brightest of spaces: memory and meditation. The poet’s feelings are sometimes sharp with deliberate and thoughtful sarcasm; they can also soar with lyrical sweetness. John Minczeski has a penchant for winged things, not only planes but mayflies, bats, as well as the engagements of the human heart. Even the simple iris that ‘starts life/as boxing gloves’ and ‘ends with the smell / of bridesmaids’ becomes, in his attentive poem, an object of weightlessness and wonder. Minczeski takes on many concerns: the personal past, history and its unsettlements, natural history, some poems that read like travel pieces though certainly they are about inner space as much as outer space. Circle Routes is a fine, sweet-spirited, ambitious, beautifully accomplished book.