Review of Robert E. Wood's Gorizia Notebook

For poetry lovers who dream of going to Italy (who doesn’t?), I suggest the chapbook Gorizia Notebook (Finishing Line Press, 2009), by Robert E. Wood. Most of the poems in the collection are brief, and although they don’t follow the strict form of an Italian sonnet, they read like finely-crafted “little songs,” the original meaning of the word sonetto in Italian.

Even though the poems are well honed, the title and the brevity of the pieces suggest a motif of quick sketches of Italian life seen through the eyes of an unobtrusive speaker, presumably an outsider. While reading the poems, I had the impression of a painter working plein air, capturing scenes in quick brush strokes.

The poems contain references to Italian street names, monuments, plazas, cities, films, music, and history, which illustrate the speaker’s intimate knowledge of the environment, in spite his outsider status. Some of the titles are written in Italian, and some of the dialogue too, implying his desire to become one with his surroundings.

There are few discursive lines–the persona allows the sights and sounds of Italy, and his relation to them, speak for themselves. When the speaker reveals his point of view, he does so with self-effacing wit.

Robert E. Wood is a professor of literature and film studies–his poems display the depth of his readings, his appreciation of art, and his travels. By reading Wood’s collection, I envisioned modern Italian life amid Roman ruins, fountains, and Mediterranean light, a society that to this day lives with the aftermath of WWII.

Gorizia Notebook is a delightful collection of understated emotion and witty observations.

If you would like to read sample poems from Robert E. Wood, you can find several pieces in the first three issues of ouroboros review. Bob and I are from the same town, but first met online when he and a few other Georgia Tech poets shared some of their work with ouroboros. I later had the opportunity to meet him at various poetry gatherings around the city, including the Decatur Book Festival, where I heard him read. He tells great background stories to go along with his poems!