Streams of breeze traveling through branches, reeds dwindling, there are saxophones and wood floating in a dance like a woman, and musical tone moves awkwardly on a cool wind while a storm descends. These lyrical poems inhabit the landscape of both playing music and experiencing life. ~Millicent Borges Accardi, author of Only More So (Salmon Poetry, Ireland) and Woman on a Shaky Bridge (Finishing Line Press)
Language and travel have recurrently taken center stage in Robert Simon’s poetic work. In his new collection of poems, The Musician, these motifs reappear, but now embedded with poetic voice’s greater maturity and deeper reflection on everyday life’s experiences. As the title denotes, the sonority of music intertwines with the sonority of language to create a new vocabulary not circumscribed by geographical boundaries. In the first poem, “Three Voices,” be the poetic voice in Madrid or Lisbon, sound and language produce an unlimited vocabulary, setting a romance “for the music of polyglots.” Therefore, melody and tongue emerge not as an opposing dialectic equation, but rather as fluid entities that, in unison, carry the poetic voice throughout the intricacy and beauty of daily life: simple yet significant things like a walk in the neighborhood, an intimate conversation, or an interaction with a waiter at a dinner table. In The Musician, there is a subtle paradoxical tension between the rapid pace of twenty-first century’s existence, marked by instantaneous and constant flux of information provided by social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—and the poetic voice’s capturing of the quotidian, which flows in slow motion, as in the last verses of “The Wine”: “The young man in the Perú/t-shirt staring at nothing for/long as he finished his lunch/glasses off,/the doll in mommy’s four/year old arms not moving/at all, receiving butterfly/kisses,/and a deep misty wind/blowing leaves away/This arpeggio of yellow and brown.” In this world that seems to be in eternal suspension, the poetic voice slowly and gently floats on language, music, and time, while memory and the change of seasons anchor the passage of time. Time, however, is not an enemy of the poet, but provides the opportunity for deeper metaphysical maturity and gratitude for the experiences lived: “In forty two minutes my thirties end/What’s left to say about that/Except to give my thanks/and send my best.”As in his other poem collections, Robert Simon introduces poetry written in other languages. In The Musician, the richness and musicality of the Portuguese language is present in the rhymed “As Estrelas” and the free verse poem “O Beijo e o Voo.” These two poems reveal a hint of intimacy and sensuality that reflects the warmth of assonance and alliterations of the Portuguese language. In summary, The Musician is a small, but exquisite, music box. Once the reader opens it, she will be left with the poetic voice’s melodious sounds, sensorial experiences, and lifetime memories.
~Dr. Emanuelle Oliveira-Monte, Associate Professor of Luso-Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian Literatures at Vanderbilt University and author of Writing Identity: The Politics of Contemporary Afro-Brazilian Literature (Purdue University Press)