The poems in Holding Ground reveal the journey of one man, and yet, these poems speak to us all—or at least anyone who has ever “felt wasted by his desires,” who has ever been “tired of wanting, / tired of morning, / tired of the way the ocean waits / for the sun to set.” With precise control of language, Willard pulls a myriad of emotions out of seemingly simple scenes: “Night blows between the frames of houses, / winding, unwinding clotheslines, between / pant legs, between sleeves, between selves.” Within the various “selves” of these poems, we see a speaker whose journey stretches beyond the last poem of this collection and reaches out into the world.
Often rooted in nature, these poems are written from a precipice, sometimes tense like “ridges of pressure / advancing,” sometimes throbbing in the quiet space before the howl of the storm: “Let’s look for shelter, he said.” The effect is an atmosphere of yearning, of earnest searching to understand the simple moments in life, to answer the question, “How do I come to know anything?”
“Intimate,” from Holding Ground:
All day I have been trying to say something about something without talking about the thing itself. Here's a bed of fresh-cut, green grass,here's a blanket of warm sunlight, here's my sound; mouth it gently. Please don't forget me.