Review: Peter Covino’s “The Right Place to Jump”

The Right Place to Jump, Peter Covino
New Issues, 2012, $15


The Right Place to Jump is the second book from Peter Covino. In Cut Off the Ears of Winter, his first, Covino staked out considerable space for themes connected to the anxiety of desire: mortality, class, language, the ineffable, decency, and fair play. In The Right Place to Jump all those same themes of longing are revisited. That is not to say it is the same book over… in The Right Place to Jump, the poetics and inhabiting voice are considerably and successfully cocked up. Where, if ever, and from/into what does one take a leap of faith?

The drive is earnest, amorous, and erotic. The emotional tracking and the poetics are carefully tuned. The content of the poems have a lot of helter skelter. In one, the poem’s speaker attends the funeral of a cousin who has committed suicide. A tender heart struggles with the euthanasia of a beloved pet. There are meditations on Celan, as well as the dancer and AIDS activist John Henry. In another, over wine and between courses, an organ donor is discussed with misgivings:

The transplant team arrived
Exactly five minutes after
She flatlined.
When they cut into her,
Her face twitched

And her eyes
Flew open,
A customary reflex
We’d read and heard about
But never experienced first hand.

(“Her Eyes Flew Open”)

The give and take of class structure is always creaking in the background.A beat-up rental car. There are no jobs at the Fiat plant. In one poem, the speaker, a young profane college student with cheap cosmetics and ramped up testosterone, tramps through a Halloween:

“Our lipstick and
makeup smeared; our necks stiff from all
the sootheless-tangle.

…and, in a couple of hours, I still
gotta get up for work.

(“Such a Drag to Want Something Sometime”)

In each poem, Covino masterfully tracks the emotion of the speaker’s voice; each poem, propels forward the inhabiting minute. This is not the Zen of Jean Gallagher’s This Minute or Chris Patton’s Ox (another pair of books that wrestle with the notion of moment and that I greatly admire). Covino is pagan and catholic (that is with a little “c”). He is profane, profound,and cleansing. Perhaps there is a little of James Bond in him. In “The River” a poem with running water as the central manifold:

“You have loved me too well and not enough….

…I’m …
Running, running
& being chased”

The right place to jump?

(Disclosure note: The author is a friend and I am listed among the Thank You’s.
We have worked together on many projects, including my own last Stateside publication.)

Scott Hightower is the award-winning author of four books of poetry and Hontanares, a bi-lingual (Spanish-English) collection (Devenir, Madrid, 2012). In 2008, Hightower’s work garnered a prestigious Barnstone Translation Prize. Besides reviewing poetry for Fogged Clarity, he is a contributing editor to The Journal and the editor of the bi-lingual anthology Women Rowing: Mujeres A Los Remos (Mantis Editores, 2102). He is adjunct faculty at NYU. Hightower, a native of central Texas, lives and works in New York and sojourns in Spain.