Meet Me at the Lighthouse: Poems

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Release Date: 
February 7, 2023
Graywolf Press
Reviewed by: 

“Gioia amuses with lyricism and whimsy in this entertaining collection.”

Dana Gioia relishes in wordplay and wit in his new poetry collection, Meet Me at the Lighthouse. He uses these poetic devices to create delightful poems rich with images of family, love, and travel. He also enjoys emulating the poetic styles of renowned poets such as Rilke and Neruda. Gioia’s poems are simple, clear, and permanent—exactly what poetry should be.

Gioia creates permanence in “Tinsel, Frankincense, and Fir” by describing how his mother’s Christmas tree decorations have been reused for years, even though she has passed. Observe the following: “My mother had so little joy to share / She kept it in a box to hide away. / But on the darkest winter nights—voila—/ She opened it resplendently to shine.” Ornaments are transformed into spontaneous moments of joy sparked by Christmas memories, as if each annual unraveling is a miracle. Gioia adds a twist in the final stanza: “Why do the dead insist on bringing gifts . . . / No holiday is holy without ghosts.” His mother’s ghost arrives in ornaments year after year, each one critical to permanent sentiment.          

“You Leave Me Bent,” a witty cabaret song about sexual frustration and intimacy is arguably the most memorable and joyful poem in the collection. Here are two stanzas: “You leave me bent / And totally spent. / I lost my composure / The moment you went. / Why do you have / To be such a gent / And drop me off home / With zip to repent // So impossibly handsome, / Such impeccable taste, / Each emotional test / You really aced. / Without having laid me / You laid me to waste. / You thoroughly made me / By being so chaste.” Gioia utilizes short lines and end rhymes to propel the poem and enrapture song. By doing this, he cements into memory how “annoying” it is to find such a perfect lover.

For lovers of short poems, “Epitaph” is a simple couplet full of poetic humor and sarcasm: “Here lies D. G. A poet? Who can say? / He didn’t even have an MFA.” MFAs are the gold standard in the poetry world, which is unfortunate as these programs are very difficult to get into. Fortunately, some of the most widely read poets do not have MFAs, and Gioia is one.

Meet Me at the Lighthouse is a quick read at 70 pages; yet poems demand revisitation, especially to fully engage and enjoy wordplay and rhyme. Gioia includes poems of different lengths and complexity to appeal to all. Readers will learn how families, memories, and feelings work. They will also smile when Gioia amuses with lyricism and whimsy in this entertaining collection.