“Only a page like this remembers,” writes Don Coles in the title poem of A Serious Call, conveying what is perhaps the strongest element of the volume – its capacity to make the page remember.
The poems of A Serious Call are all in their way concerned with this intersection between writing and memory, and though they are too often passive and unobtrusive, too seldom forceful or provocative, their faculty for memorial is remarkable.
The memory that stands at the core of “A Serious Call” – two co-workers in the back room of a bookstore with their boots up on the coffee table, only a space heater for warmth, speaking aloud to each other the lines that must be shared – is only the most elegant of many examples. Here we have the memory of the page being spoken aloud one friend to the other as an inspiration for further writing and further memory and further friendship too, because the remembering of the page is a call that only finds its answer in the response of the friend.
Though my own experience of page and memory and friendship was formed in far different circumstances, I can recognize in Coles’ description an undeniably correlate experience, as powerful and as valuable a thing – this friendship of the remembered page – and as any human experience.
I could wish that A Serious Call was able to find a more vigorous and challenging register, but its pages remember for us things worth remembering, and there is value enough in accomplishing such a purpose.