Based in Tacoma, Tim Sherry is a longtime high school teacher, coach and principal. He also has written poetry for a long time, but confesses that he kept quiet about it "because athletes and coaches and principals and Scandinavian Lutherans don't usually do that sort of thing."
"One of Seven Billion" is his first full-length poetry collection and I daresay it was worth the wait. These poems capture what it's like to be a child of the mid-20th century and an elder in the new millennium.
While Sherry's poems about his youth are male-focused (that mattered more back then than it does today), I can attest as a fellow Baby Boomer that these writings bring into focus distinctive facets of the Boomer experience: the way we played and the way parents figured in our lives, what hometowns were like before shopping malls, why the Sears catalogue was important, and how berry-picking was the first job of so many pre-adolescent Baby Boomers in the Pacific Northwest.
Who knew then that the day-to-day doings of our childhood could look so quaint from four or five decades away?
Sherry writes also about marriage and the arc of parenthood - grieving a miscarriage, mending a teddy bear, buying a new car, making do with the old kitchen, and eventually living as empty nesters.
And then there are the poems about aging. In a melancholy poem titled "Subdividing the Home Place," he measures the passage of time by way of a childhood swimming hole whose margins have shrunk, "ringed with so much of what happens / when absence is the only marker / of the distance from the boys we were."
With even more economy of words, in a poem called "the last thirty years of Saturday mornings" he distills the diagnosis of heart disease and the prospect of surgery into the telling phrase "two egg whites."
Sherry's poems are short on pretension and long on everyday experience. But he still contemplates how one human being can feel any significance in a world crammed with seven billion people, and suggests that we may stumble across some of the answers in the vast collection of details that ultimately add up to a life.
"One of Seven Billion" was published by MoonPath Press, an imprint of the Kingston-based Concrete Wolf. The editor and publisher, Lana Hechtman Ayers, has supported this region's poets in many important ways, but because this is August, let me give a particular shout-out for a fabulous event she initiated with Seattle poet Paul Nelson seven years ago.
The August Poetry Postcard Festival, now underway, is a month-long hootenanny of poetic expression via snail mail. Those of us who signed on have committed to write an original poem on a postcard every day in August and send it off to a list of other poetically inclined folks across the continent and around the world; in return, we receive poems, too. Checking my mailbox has never been so fun!
THIS WEEK'S BOOK
"One of Seven Billion," by Tim Sherry