A Review of Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where by Tobi Alfier

Tobi Alfier’s poetry always falls into the sweet spot that I look for in a poetry book: beautifully simple depictions and stories of characters of wounded by nostalgia, looking back at a lifeline devalued, but there’s nowhere left to go but move forward. The poems in Somewhere, Anywhere,Doesn’t Matter Where are replete with weathered trucks, late-night dancefloors, neglected pianos in front yards, too-early marriages, the smell of woodsmoke, and plenty of rutted roads. But with all this downhome quality, the characters retain visions of far-away adventures, hinting at a wider world left to experience…except time may be running out.

There’s love, and the tender hopes that the love will be long lasting, but those hopes are suffused with the tedious marginalia that fills all our lives and years, all of it haunted by the idea that this boredom can cut the cord of love and end things at any indetermined future morning…there’s a feeling of forever that could crumble to dust with just a few too many bad nights strung together.

The poems are blue-collar ballads that don’t have any of the self-reverential “isn’t it grand to be destitute” badges of honor some poets slather onto their Skid Row-esque adventures. These are more delicate, illustrative, woven into days too busy with maintaining work clothes, maneuvering through relationships, or driving idly down backcountry roads in search of a new romantic adventures. The world within the poems are too rich, too concerned with making it through the next day, the next paycheck, the next sleepless night, to allow the poet to become too self-aggrandizing. Tobi never has a problem walking that fine line.

But again, the most impressive thing about this collection of poems is the balance between beautiful hope and stark reality that the brick-and-mortar foundations we build in this life can crumble if life’s hard rains fall too frequently, too harshly, and that the simple joys we find in love, in work, in idle travel might be the strongest pillars in this world, rather than the overblown constructs we all imagine love and fate and destiny to be. This is the well-crafted work of an experienced, insightful, and thoughtful poet, and I highly recommend the collection.

- reviewed by James H Duncan

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