#Bookreview: November Weather Spell

Poet Robert Fillman

Review of November Weather Spell

Click on image to purchase from Main Street Rag.

I bought Robert Fillman’s debut poetry chapbook, November Weather Spell, on the strength of his poem “The Blue Hour,” which I first read in the literary magazine Ninth Letter. The blue hour of the poem’s title refers to the extra hour of dusk gained when the clocks are set back in the fall: “that sacred time when the living / and the dead can see each other.” 

The speaker goes on to describe inhabiting that sacred space for just a moment twenty years before: “the steam whirling / from chimneys like hundreds of souls / lured by stars.” 

I knew I wanted to read more from this poet. 

The same concrete imagery and clear, precise word choice from “The Blue Hour” appear throughout November Weather Spell. The word that kept coming to mind as I was reading was “direct.” There was a directness to the voice that I found both appealing and compelling. 

Several of the poems in the chapbook, including “Things Like This Happen” and “Superstition,”  make particularly good use of enjambment, from line to line and stanza to stanza. The reader is propelled through the poem, giving the experience depicted and its meaning a sense of inevitability. Fillman is clearly a poet in command of his craft.

The thirty-six poems in the chapbook make good use of their Pennsylvania setting, unifying the chapbook as a whole and grounding the reader in place and time to explore themes such as the high price some are willing to pay for acceptance and love. 

The standout of the collection for me was “Service Record,” in which the speaker describes finding a furnace service tag from 1964 noting that a fellow named Vince had inspected the furnace and performed its annual maintenance. The speaker goes so far as to conjure up his own image of Vince, “mid-fifties, browline glasses / frosted hair combed back,” a stand-up guy who takes pride in his work and cares about his family. Vince serves as a counterpoint to the father who appears as a strong presence in several of the poems. This man, too, is a tradesman who takes pride in his work, but at the same time, “Our fresh tears / magnified our father– // the cold, bright force / we feared and loved.” 

The chapbook concludes with “The Blue Hour,” which I find particularly fitting because the best poetry for me evokes “that sacred time when the [poet] / and the [reader] can see each other.” This was my experience reading November Weather Spell. I eagerly await Robert Fillman’s next book. 

From the Poet

I write about my experiences growing up in eastern Pennsylvania quite a bit. I think it is important to honor the landscape and people that have played some role in my life. I subscribe to the idea that the past is ever-present, that the events of our lives meant something when they occurred–and that they continue to mean far into the future. November Weather Spell is my attempt at keeping the people and places of my childhood alive alongside those in the present. Re-reading these poems now, with a little bit of distance, I can see how my life has been shaped by ordinary things: a stray cat, the creak of a floorboard, the smell of a kerosene lamp, the dark trees behind my house.

When I was putting this collection together, I was looking for poems that ‘talked’ to each other, poems that when read together would offer alternative versions of a single feeling or experience; or unearth unspoken details, perhaps completing each other’s story; or, at the very least, carry greater weight or meaning when placed in conversation. What has been especially gratifying is when a reader points out a connection between poems that I had not (or only half-consciously) intended. That’s a remarkable feeling.

The Landscape of Robert Fillman’s Poetry

The Photographer

The five photographs above were taken by photographer Jason Martin. Find more of his remarkable images on his website, Omnoculus, and on Instagram.

105 thoughts on “#Bookreview: November Weather Spell

    1. Thank you and you’re welcome, John. I’m glad I have the blog to help spread the word. Pre-internet, my inclination would have been to go running through the streets waving the book aloft and hollering, You have to read this book to all and sundry!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Wonderful review…you certainly set the stage to captivate our attention. I also like hearing this poet talk about his poetry. I certainly feel the strong sense of place. It is interesting that the poems are unified with a certain drama; our past certainly intersects with our present in countless ways. The photos are great and mirror the tale of our lives.. like the Beatles, ‘Long and Winding Road’. We may set out again and again…the winding road may lead us back to where we have already been, so very long ago.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree, Miriam. Use of specific, concrete imagery recreates experience so that the reader can experience it herself. Relying soley on abstract language tends to put the reader several steps removed from experience. Robert’s poetry is definitely the former. I’m so glad you enjoyed the review.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, Liz. I remember one American poet write about her daughter waving her hand. I thought the daughter was going to college. At the end, it reveals the daughter was learning to ride the bike and took off faster than she expected. The poem left me with a smile, reminding me of my daughter.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “I subscribe to the idea that the past is ever-present, that the events of our lives meant something when they occurred–and that they continue to mean far into the future.” This thought resonated with me, Liz. His use of present, past and future tenses blend together to focus our attention on was marks and defines our lives. I especially appreciated that he wanted to keep his childhood alive “alongside those in the present.” Another fabulous book review, Liz.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Such a compelling review, Liz. Some poets just blow me away with their craft. I notice imagery and word choice, the subtly of structure and how the really good poets have the ability to pull me fully into an experience as if the rest of the world fades away. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. You continue my poetry education and lead me ever closer to appreciation, Liz. So much in this review makes the collection appealing. I especially love the emphasis on place (something that matters hugely to me) and this line from the poet himself: “I subscribe to the idea that the past is ever-present.” Thank you for a lovely review.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. “the steam whirling / from chimneys like hundreds of souls / lured by stars.” Talk about imagery. Fillman has a unique view of life. The ability to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, is the mark of a gifted writer. Thank you for sharing with us, Liz.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your book reviews are incredibly in depth, personal to the author and subject, and written so that the reader is excited to hear what you have to say. This review was no exception. The photos of where he’s from are a delightful addition. Thank you, Liz!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Liz, I think I have mentioned to you how I have started to read poetry again when I began blogging. I have purchased a few books of poetry this past year. Goosebumps “that sacred time when the living/and the dead can see each other” conjures up a great deal in my imagination. You remind me how we likely have more than five senses. Interesting about “command of his craft.”

    Goosebumps, Liz, with your phrase “that sacred time when the poet and the reader see each other.” In my simple words, you have hit the nail on the head. I get it.

    I am catching up reading favourite blogs today since we have had some challenges this month. Merry Christmas, Liz to you and your loved ones.💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, Erica. Thank you for reading and for your thoughtful comments. I’m so glad you’ve gotten back into reading poetry. It’s one of life’s simple (and profound!) pleasures. I hope you and your family have a good Christmas, despite the challenges this year. I’m seeing people turning to Christmas this year as a chance for renewed hope–and rightly so!

      Liked by 1 person

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