Eric Gudas ◆ Best Western and Other Poems

Introduction by Barbara Hamby

We go to poetry for many things: music, beauty, that shiver covering our arms when we read something so beautiful and true that it can’t be denied. When I read Shakespeare, I feel as if he is speaking directly to me. His mistress’s eyes are nothing like the sun? I’m in his world. And when Keats says, “I have been half in love with easeful death,” I’m sitting under that plum tree with him listening to his nightingale. I feel as if I am in the middle of a thought unfolding in the mind of the poet. In the same way I feel as if I am in Yusef Komunyakaa’s mind as he looks at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. I see the mother brushing her child’s hair at the end of the poem just as Komunyakaa does. This is what I look for in poetry—others telling me what it is to be human in their patches in time.

Eric Gudas pulled me into his world as soon as I read the first poem in this book. His is a world of travel, menial jobs, kisses, clotheslines, puking cats, Jehovah’s Witness pamphlets, clogged drains, forgotten lovers, a dog’s water dish. One of my favorite poems is “945 Pecan Place,” which paints a portrait of a marriage filled with the mundane: a wife working at a supermarket, a husband folding clothes, eating toaster waffles, and paying bills—until the last line, in which the husband waits “impatient for your worn-out footsteps at the door.” I didn’t know it was going to be a love poem until that last line. And I was surprised over and over as I read Best Western and Other Poems.

Because this is a book of journeys—to Berlin, along the Pacific Coast Highway, from bachelorhood to marriage. In “For the Annapolis-Baltimore Railway Line,” Gudas writes an elegy for travel by rail. “En Route” begins in Rimini and ends in the sky over Kansas City, Missouri, “shining / like stolen jewels spilled at my feet.” “Broke in West Berlin” is about that and so much more. In the gorgeous title poem of this collection, a father takes his young son to his mother’s funeral. The child has never met his grandmother, who lies in her coffin. He has never seen the relatives, who are mourning this woman, but years later this journey and others like it lead him to other farewells, especially the one that we are always negotiating with our own pasts.

In a letter Keats says, “We hate poetry that has a palpable design on us.” Eric Gudas’s poems unfold as naturally as one takes a breath, and anyone who writes knows how difficult that is to accomplish. So it is my pleasure to introduce a poet whose design is so woven into the lines of his verse as to seem like watching clouds on a summer afternoon until the clouds begin to take shape and speak to us in a voice so real it might be our own.

© 2010 Silverfish Review Press

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