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Breathing Room by Mark Belair offers ample space and time for readers to move from the concrete realm of the physical world to an expansive experience of abstraction and breadth.
Small visual details like "buttery light" on an old building in the city, "empty pews tinted by stained glass," a flock of gray pigeons lofting toward "leaden skies" supply an exceptional aesthetic experience of the world our eyes can see. Consider, for example, this excerpt from "Once a Skyscraper."
Down a dusk-dark canyon
As beautiful as the preceding image is, the
poems in this collection don't just spring from the sense of
sight. They have feeling and muscle, too.
One poem titled
"Wrestling," for example, captures what a boy in junior high
school experiences when he separates from his opponent.
The book is divided into fourteen sections which seem to be autobiographical, though they don't so much tell the story of the poet as they do the experience of all humans. Each section bears a title that begins with the words Breathing Room. For instance, sections include Breathing Room To Let Things Take Their Natural Course; Breathing Room To Let Them Grow; Breathing Room To Ponder Beliefs; Breathing Room To Imagine. Each poem offers room to reflect on the world we find ourselves in: our cityscapes, country settings and elusive realms of belief.
For the poet Mark Belair, the world within which we are immersed offers prompts for thought and word. He captures this process and shows it to us in the poem called "Steps," which is included in the section titled Breathing Room to Imagine.
Basement steps drop
I highly recommend Breathing Room by Mark Belair. It will sustain you in the beautiful, muscled, ethereal experience of life on earth.
— Mary Ann Sullivan