In Print

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Where there is rhyme and reason

By CK Wolfson - September 6, 2007

Poet's License, Joe Eldredge, Humility Press, West Tisbury, June 2007.

From beginning to end - from the introduction, "Note," that groups the arrangement of poems, to the acknowledgements that appear on the back page under the word, "So?" that credit to poet laureate Billy Collins, his granddaughter, his poetry group, the Island, and others for inspiring him - Joe Eldredge's book, "Poet's License," is unconventional and interesting. Like its author.

Well-known on the Island, Mr. Eldredge is an Island and West Tisbury activist, Oxfordian scholar, author (Architecture Boston, Clarkson Potter, November 1976), and the Boston and Island architect responsible for many landmark Vineyard buildings. His impressive vocabulary, knowledge of classic literature, and command of language is apparent in his softbound, self-published collection of poetry.

The poems range from "Many Happy Returns," a charming verse describing the workings of a clock, to "Preoccupations," which plays with words, to subjects of nature, friendships, and tributes to Islanders who include George Mills, illustrator Donald Carrick, and Dionis Coffin Riggs, with whom he studied. (The book's centerfold is an untitled poem in tribute to Mr. Eldredge, written in 1988 by Dionis Coffin Riggs.)

Mr. Eldredge's style is unrestricted, governed by subject matter and intelligent whim, with generous helpings of literary, biblical, and mythical references. In some instances, his numerous allusions would benefit from an insider's understanding. There is the impression Mr. Eldredge is examining and obliquely drawing from his diverse Island and personal experiences.

The poems demonstrate different forms, punctuations, and rhythms. It is not an easy read, and probably not intended to be. The collection requires a patient reader, willing to confront references and decipher meanings. And then there are his nautical verses, whose images are more accessible.