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Thomas Hardy Listens To Louis Armstrong

Thomas Hardy Listens To Louis Armstrong

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By Andrew Shields

When Thomas Hardy listens to Louis Armstrong, music reaches out to poetry across centuries and oceans. Here, a “dreamer at a loss” passes notes to a classmate, “cards of absolute equivocation” that “run through all the scales in all the keys,” from “a man of many hats” to Osip Mandelstam’s tambourine, from the dream of a monk to a broken traffic light.

Andrew Shields has lived in Switzerland since 1995. Among other things, he is a Michigander, Palo Altan, Comp Lit PhD, English teacher, German and French speaker, translator, poet, song-writer, guitarist, mandolinist, father, and husband. You’ll find sundry sorts of life that touch Andrew and you as well, in all sorts of verse: brief or long, quick or deep, free or meter, filled with experience. What’s more, you may well want to speak them to family and friends. His last poem’s last line tells us “verses did what verses mean to do”.

Andrew Shields is maestro of the sympathetic and the savvy. He writes with unapologetic lyricism and with a narrative self-awareness that is anymore too rare in contemporary poetry. The poems in the volume are entirely composed—and I intend that word in all the ways one might employ it: composed in the manner of a piece of music, composed in the way one might describe someone as being emotionally pulled together. The simple stoicism of ‘Sundowning’ will break your heart; ‘Blackbird’ is a masterwork. everything about this collection sings. — Jill Alexander Essbaum

For me, what Shields does best is to construct poems of a dreamlike nature in which we seem to overhear other people's thoughts or pick up scraps from messages or whispers of conspiracy. – Thomas Ovans in 'London Grip' (full review here)

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