Dwaine Rieves’ When The Eye Forms

BY LAURA DONNELLY, Poetry Editor

eyeforms225Carolyn Forché, who selected Dwaine Rieves’ book of poems for the 2005 Tupelo Press Award, writes “who is more qualified than a poet-physician to tell us, following Ovid’s words, of how bodies change into different bodies?  Dwaine Rieves’ When The Eye Forms offers us that rarity, a poet-doctor’s book of days.”

I’m often drawn to books of poetry written by people who have “other lives” reflected in their work – the lawyer turned poet, the aeronautical engineer turned poet – and I’ve been impressed by the way Rieves’ poems render the daily actions and concerns of a working doctor.  When The Eye Forms gives us glimpses into the author’s experience in a Mississippi health department and a Gay Men’s VD Clinic where he volunteers in Washington D.C.

The portraits Rieves’ paints are compassionate and gritty.  In “Leaving” he describes the parents who (by court order) take turns bringing their baby in for monthly check-ups, waiting on the curb afterwards, “stopping cars, thumbing a ride.” Forshé writes “the everyday here becomes magical – not because the poet is engaged in false pyrotechnics or inventions, but because he knows with an earned heart-knowledge that each human face can provide a map – leading us into the miracle of creation itself.”  Two of the poems in the collection, “Not the Same” and “Well Baby,” were previously published in Sycamore Review, and it’s a pleasure to see them again in the context of this book.

See Tupelo Press for details on ordering, or to read the judge’s complete comments.