Poetry Review: Mike Meraz

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Mike Meraz might be watching it all burn, as the title of his latest poetry collection suggests, but he’s also diligently keeping track of the chaos swirling around him. The attention to imagery and sentiments combines the best qualities of observation with confession. Meraz isn’t obsessed with answering every question that stems from well-written, blunt offerings like “The Great Poets” or “Girl With The Golden Eyes.” He is simply aware that he can’t hold on to everything he’s seen or experienced. Some of it has to move from the archives of the mind to the blank page. Not every skeleton in a closet is the kind of thing that’s going to send you to hell. Some of it is just stuff we can’t shake for one reason or another. Several of Meraz’s poems consist of picking a few things from the whirlwind of activity that flies past us every day, turning these few things over, looking at them from all angles, writing them out and leaving them for someone else to find.

Several of the pieces in Watching It Burn are strongly pensive, but they possess the same frank clarity as the writings that take stock of his surroundings. It’s not a bad thing that “Home”, “The Life Of A Writer” or “I Sit Still By The Water” don’t spend a lot of time on metaphors. That kind of approach wouldn’t suit Meraz’s voice at all. That doesn’t mean these aren’t as insightful or profound as those that use them. A writer like Meraz can command a dedicated, attentive audience by using his own particular voice to dig past the surface of the everyday. What he unearths instantly becomes his sole creative property. He shows us what comes to his mind when sleep stubbornly refuses to end the long day (and Meraz’s life, luckily for us, seems to consist of a lot of those). He implies in every one of the ordinary things he scrutinizes that the depths he takes us to in his mind exist just as powerfully and uniquely, as they do in those ordinary things.

It’s wonderful to watch Meraz pull all this off.  And he does so by speaking for anyone who knows exactly what he’s talking about but has never been able to articulate it to their liking. Meraz doesn’t sweat the challenge of intriguing us with something as basic as what is on his mind. He tells us what we need to know, does so with impeccable flow and wisdom and moves on to the next town. Watching It Burn knows how large the world is, and how far the mind that perceives that world can travel. Its author is undoubtedly, hopefully, preparing another collection as we speak.

Mike Meraz, Watching it Burn: A