Nina MacLaughlin of The Boston Globe (6-6-21) reviews Matthew W. Miller’s new book of poems, cover-to-cover about the Merrimack River and Lowell:
“In his hewn and forceful new collection of poetry, “Tender the River” (Texas Review), Matthew W. Miller makes a coursing book-length portrait of the Merrimack River, its “syringe and soda bottle banks,” and the Merrimack Valley. Miller, a Lowell native and a teacher at Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, tracks the whole lifespan of the river, streaming together personal history, geological history, political and cultural history. The poems address race, labor, industrialism, the region’s indigenous people, and the powerful interplay — sometimes cruel, sometimes nurturing — of people on the environment and the environment on the people. It is a book distinctly of a place — its parks, bars, and churches, its liquor stores and parking lots — and Miller gives a homeowner’s texture and homeriver movement to his lines. “Make me small again, roll me in your lap / your mud, your moon lit blood.” What emerges is the mystery that comes from a place living inside of you as much as you live in or on or near that place. He writes of a “frost skulled hill,” of “a land apart, outside time, and ever our infinite theft,” of different kinds of violence, of “where our salted flesh seeks salinity, some / delta of eternity.”
The book is available online and in bookstores.