Along the Way by Scott Pariseau

along
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By John Zheng
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Scott Pariseau’s Along the Way is his first collection of poems and prose in variant forms, including epitaph, haiku, tanka-like poems, sonnet, free verse, and four prose pieces. As he says in the preface, the poet arranges the collection nearly chronologically and leads us along the way to different places—lived and traveled by the author—to experience his nostalgia, sadness, and sense of beauty found in ordinary life.
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One characteristic of Pariseau’s poetry is the use of different poetic forms. “Fall Migration,” which serves as the prelude, is arranged in four stanzas, each composed of two couplets. It also gives attention to alliteration and assonance, as shown in “I long that I might leave the ground / to fly with geese by time unbound.” Another good example of alliteration is in “Sprays of snow stuck / to my moist, scarved mouth” (“Night Walk, Winter”). Pariseau writes sonnets too. “First Crush” is a love sonnet in two stanzas. While the scheme is Petrarchan (composed of an octave and a sestet), the rhyme pattern is mainly Shakespearean. Yet, while the octave follows the Shakespearean rhyme pattern closely (ABABCDCD), the sestet veers to some degree away from the Shakespearean rhyme. Instead of using the EFEFGG rhyme, Pariseau has three couplets in the sestet rhymed as EEFFGG.
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Another characteristic of Along the Way is the use of imagery coming from his personal experience. For example, “In Autumn Light” relates the crows to the black soil:
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Crows
fly slow,
like black soil
rolling
off plows.
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As one who was once a farmhand, this reviewer appreciates the poet’s accurate comparison made from his farming experience. Another interesting image, a spoked wheel in “In Rotation,” creates a vivid auditory and visual view of the lovely puppies:
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Six puppies
slurping water
from a bowl—
like a spoked wheel
rotation slowly
clockwise
as they drink.
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Pariseau is a keen observer who finds something memorable or beautiful in the ordinary. In “Still Life,” an eight-line poem, he sees and smells “the moist scent / of cut roses in a bowl” which “permeates everything” that is not pleasant to the senses: the scorching heat of an afternoon, the thin air in a dusty room, the drawn blinds, and the dim, yellow light.
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Moreover, memory brings out a sense of place loved by people, as presented in “Night in Harkey Valley, Arkansas”:
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This family, spread by miles,
is together again, talking late
at the table.  Love stirs,
grows in the eyes
of three generations.
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Ancestors are named—
they are present, waiting;
their bones slide easily
into fresh young cousins.
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This poem presents a common but cozy scene of a family time filled with love and harmony. Their good relationship and communication are reflected not only through their talk but in their eyes as well. Their talk moves smoothly to the second stanza about their ancestors to suggest a history and heritage of three generations, and this heritage becomes concrete in the last two miraculous lines. A reader may wish the poem could be longer with more details to flesh out the family time.
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Besides writing about daily life and memory, Pariseau also turns his eye to ecowriting. “Thirteen Turtles: A Prose Meditation”—a short prose piece—conveys a strong ecological message. It intends to raise awareness of the potential negative consequence of the human killing of birds and animals and the destruction done to the earth. Further, Pariseau mentions yin yang in the Chinese cosmological symbolism, which means balance. People should realize that when the balance no longer exists on this earth, nature will turn to punish its destroyers—human beings.
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Occasionally we hear a sentimental sigh. “Dream at Ocean Haven” sighs about the bygone youth: “O, when do those / pure colors of youths / begin acquiring / the solemn tints / of the grave?” but oftentimes we see impressionistic and delightful views in Along the Way with an expectation for an aftertaste.
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John (Jianqing) Zheng’s publications include A Way of Looking, Conversations with Dana Gioia, and African American Haiku: Cultural Visions. He is the editor of the Journal of Ethnic American Literature. His forthcoming poetry collection is titled The Dog Years of Reeducation from Madville Publishing.
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