Along the way by Scott Pariseau

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By John Zheng

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Scott Pariseau By the way is his first collection of poems and prose in variant forms, including epitaph, haiku, tanka-type poems, sonnet, free verse, and four prose pieces. As he says in the preface, the poet orders the collection almost chronologically and takes us along the way to different places, lived and traveled by the author, to experience his nostalgia, sadness and sense of beauty found in everyday life.

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A characteristic of Pariseau’s poetry is the use of different poetic forms. “Fall Migration”, which serves as a prelude, is organized into four stanzas, each consisting of two verses. Also pay attention to alliteration and assonance, as shown in “I long to be able to leave the ground/fly with geese through time unattached.” Another good example of alliteration is found in “Snow sprinklers attached / to my wet, covered mouth” (“Night Walk, Winter”). Pariseau also writes sonnets. “First Crush” is a love sonnet in two stanzas. While the scheme is Petrarchan (made up of an octave and a sextet), the rhyme pattern is primarily Shakespearean. However, while the eighth closely follows the pattern of Shakespeare’s rhyme (ABABCDCD), the sextet deviates to some extent from Shakespeare’s rhyme. Instead of using the rhyme EFEFGG, Pariseau has three couplets in the sextet rhymed like EEFFGG.

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Another feature of By the way it is the use of images coming from his personal experience. For example, “In Autumn Light” associates ravens with the black earth:

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ravens

fly slow,

like black earth

lamination

off the plows.

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As someone who was once a farmhand, this reviewer appreciates the poet’s accurate comparison of his farming experience. Another interesting image, a spoked wheel in “In Rotation”, creates a vivid aural and visual view of the beautiful puppies:

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six puppies

sip water

of a bowl—

like a spoked wheel

rotation slowly

clockwise

while they drink

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Pariseau is a keen observer who finds something memorable or beautiful in the ordinary. In “Nature Still,” an eight-line poem, he sees and smells “the damp smell / of cut roses in a bowl” that “penetrates everything” that is not pleasing to the senses: the scorching heat of an afternoon, the fine air in a dusty room, the blinds drawn and the light dim and yellow.

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Furthermore, memory brings about a sense of place loved by people, as presented in “Night in Harkey Valley, Arkansas”:

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This family, scattered for miles,

they are together again talking late

in the table. love shakes,

grows in the eyes

of three generations.

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Ancestors are named—

they are present, waiting;

their bones slide easily

in fresh young cousins.

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This poem presents a common yet cozy scene of family time full of love and harmony. His good relationship and communication is reflected not only through his conversation but also in his eyes. His talk smoothly advances to the second stanza about his ancestors to suggest a history and heritage of three generations, and this heritage is concretized in the last two miraculous lines. A reader may wish the poem was longer with more detail to build on family time.

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In addition to writing about everyday life and memory, Pariseau also focuses on eco-writing. “Thirteen Turtles: A Prose Meditation”, a short prose text, conveys a strong ecological message. He intends to raise awareness about the possible negative consequences of the human killing of birds and animals and the destruction caused to the earth. Furthermore, Pariseau mentions the yin yang in Chinese cosmological symbolism, which means balance. People should realize that when balance no longer exists on this earth, nature will turn to punish its destroyers: human beings.

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From time to time we hear a sentimental sigh. “Dream at Ocean Haven” sighs about past youth: “Oh, when do those / pure colors of youth / begin to take on / the solemn tints / of the grave? but we often see impressionistic and enchanting views in By the way with the expectation of an aftertaste.

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John (Jianqing) Zheng’s publications include A Way of Looking, Conversations with Dana Gioia, and African American Haiku: Cultural Visions. He is the editor of the Journal of American Ethnic Literature. His next collection of poetry is titled The Dog Years of Reeducation from Madville Publishing.

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