Dark Wild Realm

Dark Wild Realm is a collection of poems by Michael Collier, published by Houghton Mifflin.

This collection is a narrative of grief and the perception of the world after the loss of a close friend. The collection is split into three sections. The first one gives an account of the death as well as the funeral. The second and third seemingly take place at various times after the death, and account for the speaker’s struggle to come to terms with the loss and eventually gain some solace.

Collier’s account of the funeral is a somewhat funny, certainly engaging one. In his poem “To the Mortician’s Son,” the speaker extends forgiveness toward the man who mediated the funeral, whose mistakes during the ordeal the speaker feels would make his deceased friend happy:

“…my friend would have loved
how unfit you were for the family trade
and perhaps even enjoyed
how you peeved his former wife,
though not from malice,
and made of his death some melodrama,
human and absurd.”

Collier’s reflections are usually quite poignant and skillfully rendered. The poetry sometimes has a single flash of an incident, or a turn that really makes the poem. For example, “The Watch” is about the heartless priest who is emotionally detached from the funeral itself. When he looks down to check his watch, Collier seems to just glance over the fact and let the event hit the reader as it should. He then gives a response to such a heartless action: he describes the way his friend play the guitar and closed his eyes and felt the music he created. What an incredible tactic!

Collier uses nature imagery heavily throughout. For example, the motif of birds reflects the different stages of grief throughout the poetry. A poem in the first section describes a bird who had died crashing into a window. In the second section, “A Winter Feeding” tells of a dead tree that can still somehow provide sustenance to countless robins who flocked there to eat.

The third section focuses on what is left behind after death. A moving poem called “Shelley’s Guitar” discusses the mountains of possessions he left behind, now being exhibited simply because they were his. The poet remarks that the guitar was meant to be a gift for a friend, but it doesn’t matter now. Collier’s reflections and observations are incredibly unique and beautiful, and certainly worth a peek.