Of all the books under review here, A Penance is, on its surface, the most conventional. It contains pretty much what you would expect to find in a book of poems: couplets, sonnets (some entitled “Aubade”), even a modified sestina. All the poems have titles, and all are flush along the left margin. Nothing about the form or typography of the book is overtly experimental or postmodern, which might lead you to think the poems are predictable. How wrong you would be. A few things make this debut collection neither predictable nor conventional, the most impressive of which is a riveting combination of intensity and accessibility. Beautiful lines are not new to poetry, but beauty and approachability don’t always chat each other up in contemporary poetry. Evans wants to change that.
CJ’s a friend fo mine, and this opening paragraph is very true to both the person and the poetry. There’s very little to A Penance that is ostentatious or otherwise crying out for you to love it as experimental work, and that’s probably a big part of why I’ve found much more of interest and of true experimentation in it than in most new books I read.