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What Might Not Be

Praise & Reviews

Deeply familiar with the natural world, contemplative silence and grief, Rhodes marries gorgeous words to the eternal questions. He invites the reader to face ultimate mystery with gratitude. Perhaps an even greater blessing: he invites us to laugh. This is a collection to be read, reread and treasured.   

— C. E. Morgan, author of All the Living

J. Stephen Rhodes has an extraordinary gift for writing lyric poems that have the courage to wrestle with the depths and the head to explore the heights. In a poem lamenting his daughter’s death, Rhodes recalls how she used to call crows “black surprises” and watches now as the birds vanish, becoming “silent holes in the day.” And in the sensational prose poems, “Sparrows” and “Possums,” he imagines new explanations for this spinning realm we live in. Whether grieving or celebrating, his verse is always imaginative and musical. These poems wonder at our being here at all—at the sheer gift of existence—then quickly acknowledge that everything we love can disappear. But poetry is a form of creation, an act of affirmation and hope from the center of the broken world. Perhaps What Might Not Be is the secret name of the everyday miracle we all share. This is writing of a very high order.  

— Theodore Deppe, Author of Orpheus of the Red Line

The enlivening proportion between wonder and candor changes from poem to poem in What Might Not Bebut both are always present and combine to deeply engage the reader in moments that are now rueful, now shrewd, now full of marvel, now everything at once. There is that ache in these poems that signals the full presence of poetry, that feeling for the revelations which existence is steeped in and the shadows those revelations cast.  

— Baron Wormser, Author of Teach Us That Peace