Gabriel Spera’s poetry offers many pleasures. It is superbly made, with lucid phrasing and vivid imagery, and with a sure but subtle command of a range of forms, including some of the poet’s own invention. Its level of attentiveness is exemplary: no matter what Spera writes about—and Twisted Pairs engages a wide variety of subjects, as titles like “Airport Finches,” “Baby Teeth,” “Contagion,” and “WORD SEARCH: Chemotherapy” might suggest—he always discovers the essential details in the material at hand, developing his lines in original and satisfying ways. Finally, its forthrightness is deeply moving: the speaker of these poems wrestles honestly with the challenges of living in “the neighborhood of loss” where we all dwell these days, with the intertwined joy and despair of existence, looking for what might be “hopeworthy.” “The worst disaster, / though certain, is never quite the end of the world,” as he concludes one poem. “And still / life comes teasing back.” Twisted Pairs is an imaginative, intelligent, and powerful book.
—Michael McFee, author of A Long Time to Be Gone and That Was Oasis
To read Twisted Pairs is to savor both Gabriel Spera’s personal experience and his technical confidence, disparate qualities which join to form a powerful and compelling pair. This collection, wide-ranging and deeply humane, offers celebration and elegy, testimony and surprises.
—Rachel Hadas, author of Love and Dread and Piece by Piece
Twisted Pairs holds in tension two antagonistic forces vital to our time: the unnaturalness of human desires in conflict with the inhospitableness of nature. A pandemic flares. Wars rage. Species collapse. The center cannot hold because there is no center. In satirical lyrics, meditations in envelope stanzas, and tragic narratives, Twisted Pairs argues for the power of bearing clear-eyed witness to atrocity and ecstasy alike. Taking comfort in the pleasures and rigors of his art, Spera utilizes what J. V. Cunningham called “the exclusions of a rhyme”: the self-disciplining restraint and happy accidents afforded only by form. Spera turns his acute senses and tragicomic sensibilities toward subjects as varied as baby teeth, the global migration crisis, skateboarders, violent crime, and Alzheimer’s disease, asking again and again what could possibly sustain us through this moment in which even “the past / is an invasive species.”
—Brian Brodeur, author of Some Problems with Autobiography and Every Hour Is Late