Right here, right now

Poem with Critical Thinking

About distant platforms—ocean ones—

and multiple scales. The subway trumpeter playing two horns at once.

The essay I mean to write—what good is it

without radar weather, wave patterning,

permeable membrane engaged to transfer?

Standing by the sink in the morning

at the window drinking water and thinking

in this perforated way what the day

requires and what the life,

a quick blur comes into focus

off the vine garden floor.

Light brown and white framed by ice

against the blue-white of fresh powder,

scrambling from form into low

flight over the alley fence.

As if I’ve spoken out loud

My daughter, shivering, shoveling cereal:

“What’s a critical essay?”

Loose current breaking into

Nighthawk, food chain,

sun edging over the garage.

Every surfacing relation, atmospheric

pressure, questions remaining unanswered.


I had the opportunity to see William

Stobb do an afternoon poetry reading at the University of Nevada, Reno on Oct. 29. It was a homecoming for him because he earned his Ph.D. here. He now lives in La Crosse, Wisc. The guy’s funny and charming, as is his poetry. He recently released a new collection of poems called absentia. In this, his fifth collection, he considers aspects of the Great Basin’s geology, geography and scale.

It’s not surprising that there is so much humor in the work, as it’s pretty hard to take oneself, or one’s work, very seriously in comparison to concepts of scale—like entire mountain ranges covered by a cloud—or the timespans that move landscapes from the depths of ancient oceans to present-day peaks.

At any rate, because the opportunity presented itself, I asked permission to run one of the poems. The one I selected is “Poem with Critical Thinking,” which appears at the top of this article. In searching for the perfect poem to represent the book, it becomes very evident that this is Nevada-based work, in both location and attitude, although some of it is a rumination on the Great Basin from other locales, which might be where the title comes from.

Oddly, while I recognize the Nevada-ness of this collection—for example, there are poems that make direct references to Nevada places, like Wheeler Peak, and there’s a scene from the Black Rock Desert on the cover—much of the poetry isn’t dependent on some imaginary state line. I guess that could speak to the universality of the ideas and writing, but to me, it seems kind of magical and artful how the imagery is designed to take me from the words that are written, that speak to certain specific places on the planet, and deposit me into realms that exist entirely within my own, and I guess Stobb’s, head.

I think a lot of Northern Nevadans, some of whom don’t buy a lot of poetry, might find this collection worthy of a place on their nightstand.