Greg McBride’s Porthole is a book brimming with life. When so many poets elevate mood over matter and allow consciousness to filter out the world, it is a surprise and a pleasure to read a book open to the full range of human experience—historical and familial, fleeting and abiding, from the horrors and banalities of war to the strains and satisfactions of domestic life—presented in a verse vigorous, finely wrought and immensely satisfying. A tremendous debut.
This poet has a mature voice, at once historical, compassionate, tender, and visionary. These are authentic American poems that ache lovingly across several generations.
Here is a lyric poet of considerable gifts in whose words the remembered and the embodied are brought forth uncannily—the familiar strange, the strange strangely familiar. Greg McBride's poems make of the past—its burdens and its blessing—an honest, radiant, and finely tuned music.
This extraordinary . . . collection marks one of the most auspicious late-bloomer debuts in contemporary American poetry. These are poems of haunting, cinematic power. The language is its own landscape here—with each poem wrapped so tight you think it may explode— perfectly conveying the emotion and intimacy that mark McBride’s wondrous, and sometimes frightening, universe.
These candid, sensitive, affecting poems follow, like gravity’s rainbow, the arc of a long life, one that becomes a lived microcosm of the American history in those years. With a fine ear for the music that releases felt meaning in language, an attentive eye for the resonant detail, Greg McBride’s poems, like the laps swum in the poem of that name, take us with him “here to elsewhere, / content in going, then coming, / the well-shaped strokes, the honest work . . . .”
In his exact witnessing of childhood's vividness, war's shock, and the dynamics of love, Greg McBride reminds us of the redress that poetry can accomplish. In poems that are troubling and redemptive, McBride shows that the progress of a life through time is as beautiful as it is painful, intimately eloquent even as it participates in the worst moments of our history.
From Okinawa to Vietnam to the marital bed, these poems pack a punch—and a caress. Military and domestic battlegrounds are viewed close up, through the unsparing eye of a photographer. And yet these poems fairly bristle with restrained emotion. These are decent, honorable poems, and under them all is a fine music that makes the grief more bearable.