Jay Hopler’s second collection, a mourning song for his father, is an elegy of uproar, a careening hymn to disaster and its aftermath. In lyric poems by turns droll and desolate, Hopler documents the struggle to live in the face of great loss, a task that sends him ranging through Florida’s torrid subtropics, the mountains of the American West, the streets of Rome, and the Umbrian countryside. Vivid, dynamic, unrestrained: The Abridged History of Rainfall is a festival of glowing saints and fighting cocks, of firebombs and birdsong.
The Abridged History of Rainfall is a core sample of grief. A father has died, a widow remains “in her marriage house,” and a man looks at a world made raw by intimate loss. All is too bright, the butterflies are a “combustion,” and the poet doesn’t know where all this rain has come from. With a heart as large as its keeper’s mind, Jay Hopler brings the age-old metaphors of loss down a notch or two, not casting them into oblivion but recasting them as troubled, needy companions. Hopler teaches us a search through rain doesn’t come easily, and that an elegy to a father is, at its purest form, a book of lonely praise.