Sojourner gathers short stories, poems, experiments, and prose poems from the author’s 25 years spent traveling, sojourning, and then residing in various US and European cities. Each of the multiform texts of Sojourner seek to engage the mystery of our experience of place, our sense of belonging, and our desire to escape into unknown territories. Of the many voices included in the collection, we hear from teenagers in obscure California suburbs, San Francisco apartment hunters and soon-to-be-unfaithful boyfriends, European backpackers, junkies, prostitutes, South American refugees, mourners in Texas, revolutionaries in Brooklyn, dreaming Manhattan barflies, Arctic lovers, victims of Vesuvian politics and Partenopean trash bags, a refiguration of Poe’s amontillado-tippling Fortunato, Florentine ghosts, Tuscan expatriates lost in summertime reveries, and the Mad Hatnik in Poznan, Poland, along with his evil doppleganger and imaginary accomplice.
Such is the way this book of poems, short stories and other gems affects the reader. As it is an anthology of different writing styles by the same Author, there are no characters to dissect or explain; no plot that needs to be waded through, just the unadulterated pleasure of reading words artfully and expertly strung together in a manner that will touch all readers in some fashion. The covers both front and back, are endowed with beautiful glossy photographs, that make you immediately know that this book is going to be something quite extraordinary, and worth your time to investigate.
‘House Hunting’, the first short in this anthology, sets the scene delightfully for what is to come as we travel the world with, and experience it through, the writers’ eyes. And, a story most of us can relate to as we try to find our own ‘castle’ in the world. ‘Sparagmos’ takes us a whole new direction, as do most of the pages as the reader turns them, and was my favourite prose poem in the book. Another favourite of mine, was ‘American Cemetery’. Having visited several of these while we were living in Europe it was easy to feel the underlying conflict between beliefs and decency, an indication of just how well this outstanding collection is written. As always when visiting one of these sites, I take the time to reflect over what has gone, and what we have now; this is also captured well in the lines of the piece and made me take a few moments in its reading for some gentle meditation on the aspects of war.
There is not much I can say about this collection, without going through it here page by page, and then nullifying any need you have to read it for yourself, and you do need to read it for yourself. There are pieces that will offend the overly sensitive, but there always is in good writing; this is good writing. It is full of hope, despair, horror, humour and seduction. Most of the contents are easily understandable upon the first read but, like an onion, they contain several levels and it is worth the time to revisit them and gradually peel those levels away.
I am highly recommending this to anyone who likes short stories, poems or just exploring something new. I have carried this in my messenger bag from the day I first opened its covers to dip in and out of when I had a break in my schedule, and will probably continue to do so until it falls to pieces, maybe I need to buy another copy for when this day comes, as every time I read something it contains, I find a new viewpoint that I hadn’t considered before.