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The Time I Didn’t Know What to Do Next

Praise & Reviews

The Time I Didn’t Know What to Do Next is full of poems that know exactly what to do.  J. Stephen Rhodes writes of love, death, and faith, in language that is full of body, of soul. “First Flower” begins, “God of the indefinite/walk between February/and March, show me/at least one bloodroot….” “French Bread” begins, “The night I took your shoe off/under the table at La Chanson,/under the artichoke/and basket of bread, you smiled/and I knew we could do, as Paul says,/all things together good.” Rhodes’ poems are wise and funny and moving and beautifully made. I can’t wait to see what he will do next. 

— Suzanne Cleary

In his lovely, painful debut, Steve Rhodes has given us a book filled with grace. These poems do not profess the easy belief that passes for faith. They possess a distinctive voice that trusts the grace of an awkward and impassioned questioning. Spiritual seeker, part believer, part doubter, grieving father, lusty adolescent, emotionally defenseless son, lover of the material world, dancer who implores us to “Repent. Enjoy,” Steve Rhodes seeks the divine everywhere.... The Time I Didn’t Know What to Do Next is among the best new books I have read. Read it. Keep it close at hand. I’m betting you will continue to enjoy these poems and come to treasure this poet who has learned to “pick [his] own pockets for the sweet bread [he does] not know is there.”

— Leatha Kendrick

These are the poems of a survivor. This book opens with the crushing fact of the loss of a loved one—the poet's daughter—to suicide. In the aftermath, the whole world seems changed. One does not know what to trust any more, or what to believe in, or what to do next. In that frame of mind, says Rhodes, one starts to listen, and listen hard. These poems show us the labor and meaning of a poet's deep listening to the world, to others, to spirits, to one's God, to one's memory, and to oneself. In such listening one hears something that feels like salvation. 

— Fred Marchant