I was first introduced to Steve Carter’s poetry at a reading and open mic sponsored by A Freethinker’s Corner, a new independent bookstore in Dover, New Hampshire. (Support your local independent bookstore!) He prefaced the reading of each poem by informing us of precisely how many times it had been rejected before finding its way to the right editor’s desk for publication. That certainly got my attention–and the poems that followed kept it.
Here is my review Steve Carter’s debut collection, intermoduations.
Steve Carter’s debut poetry collection, intermodulations, offers a view of the world through the eyes of someone who has lived the examined life. The language in the majority of the poems is spare and direct, urging the reader to stop, pay attention, listen.
The poems range in subject from a simple observation of two young men going about their jobs on a Saturday morning in “Ceremony #1” to watching a daughter eat a slice of cantaloupe in “Inexpressible Joy” to resisting the luxury of doctrine offered by religion in “Meditation in Black.”
Carter’s background as a jazz guitarist is evident throughout the collection. “Working in Boston (jazz recitative)” speaks to the toll that the day job takes on those in the arts and the strain of trying to stand out among “so many faces / trying to make places / for themselves / working in Boston.”
“A Voice Crying in the Wilderness” provides a slightly different take on the desire to make it as a performer, while “The Singer” just needs to hear the sound of his own voice again. “Dancing under the Stars” is a reminder of what can be lost when a musician and, by extension, anyone in the expressive arts, reaches a certain level of technical mastery.
As suggested by “Working in Boston,” the notion of place plays a prominent role in the collection, extending to three poems about Florida, which perfectly convey the sense of unease the New Englander experiences upon entering that two-dimensional land called Florida.
There are also delightful moments of humor in the collection, as in “Betsy,” a chance encounter in the park with an exuberant young girl who has nothing of the spare or direct about her as she wonders if she could “catch the sun in this bell” before running off to join her friends, leaving the speaker of the poem to think, “oh well / i don’t have to worry / if the sun ever falls / old betsy will catch it / in her bell.”
In the end, the standout in intermodulations has to be “another poem written in the laundromat (for my wife).” It’s a love poem that no amount of description can do justice. You’re just going to have to read it for yourself.
On the strength of intermodulations and his most recent publication in Fourth and Sycamore, Steve Carter is now on my list of poets whose work I actively look for. I would encourage other readers would appreciate good poetry to do the same!