Alice James Books, $14.95 (paper)
“Were we looking for a pure icon of the senses?” asks the speaker in Tom Thompson’s “Stoplights Are Gaping with Cold (My Observers).” “No, we were looking for you, Tom Thompson,” the speaker continues, “False image composed of fresh motion.” This last phrase could define the essence of The Pitch, the follow-up to Thompson’s debut, Live Feed. Readers of these poems will find themselves accepting any number of fabricated images due in part to the strange velocities at which they are encountered, but even more so because of the salesmanship with which they are presented. Selling is the mode in which this collection operates, and what is offered includes “an amazement of corner offices,” “roof gardens / blown open stem,” and “water towers . . . shivering like egg sacs.” What becomes clear as Thompson’s speeches accrue is that this is a salesman who gives you no reason to be afraid to get in your new car and drive off the lot. The Pitch is not a con game, not even a satire, but a celebration, as in the title poem: “See how this view enacts you? Everything impending, / as I said, where vision ladles a wicked pastoral / across the conference table, where deals are swapped / with delicate packets of parakeet breath, / where the silence between contraries is infused / entirely with pleasure.” And once Thompson establishes our trust in his method, he varies the product, delivering cooler, reflective moments, such as “It was country then / or went by its name. Is it I think or remember? Not both,” or sometimes something stranger, like the exclamation “The police set about their work so tenderly!” that begins “A Fillip. A Fandango.” Ultimately, if one asks what The Pitch is a pitch for, the answer seems to be the same as the reason for crowd in “Crowds Surround Us”: “The crowd’s object, its point, / is always vanishing into its own mass.” Or, in other words, The Pitch sells itself.