(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

A master of poetic language, Philip Booth offers in his collection, PAIRS, a wide variety of forms and styles. His poems range from simple and lyrical songs to more serious and experimental narratives to very short poems, no more than a few lines in length. Some of the most impressionistic of his work are the shorter poems, where the influence of imagism reveals itself strongly. These brief lines flash intense glimpses of pictures to the reader that stand uninterpreted and unembellished. Images speak by themselves mimicking the style of Ezra Pound or William Carlos Williams.

Booth introduces the volume, as poets often do, with a study on the nature of poetry and the roles played by poet and reader. With this introduction, the theme of paired people, objects, and ideas reoccurs throughout the collection. This duality is then contrasted by the division of the book into three sections: “Seed Time,” “Harvest,” and “Winter,” which is based on a William Blake quote that reads, “In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.”

The narrative voices of Booth’s world like to address the simple experiences of life. These voices are acutely in touch with their surroundings. They describe in vivid detail the subtleties of the world around them. Full of sensory images and striking opposing thoughts, they encourage readers to relive the small but important pieces of their lives. A quietly sad mood is created as the narrators of these poems often speak of lost possibilities and desires that they can not seem to fulfill because of their own lethargy. The duality of doing and thinking is prevalent throughout the work. With a strong sense of the harsh futility of the world and the harshness of bleak nature, these narrators in Booth’s world can only seem to observe and dream.