James Cummins’s first book of poems, The Whole Truth, became known throughout much of the poetry world as the “Perry Mason sestinas.” His second book, Portrait in a Spoon, was chosen by Richard Howard for the James Dickey Prize Contemporary Poetry Series.
His latest and most accomplished work is collected in Then & Now, which reflects the same inventiveness and wit evident in his earlier books, with a deepening of tone and spirit. The result is a collection of poems filled with feeling and with Cummins's signature anguished humor.
If the language of poetry is a way into a hall of mirrors of the self, it can be a way out, too. The voice that emerges in Then & Now is sane, imaginative, bemused, and sly, not only taking responsibility for the character of the writer put fully on display, but ironically and affectionately exploring how this process occurs.