With humor and compassion, George Bilgere continues his explorations of the human predicament. The settings of these poems range from Cleveland to Berlin, from childhood to old age. Bilgere’s subject, in the largest sense, is America, in all its craziness, its haunted past, its imperiled future. But what really centers this book is the English language itself, which these poems endeavor to renew, reinvent, and reinvigorate.
Central Air is full of melancholy and the awareness of time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near, but there are also these moments when the poet can appreciate the here and now. In the poem ‘Reichstag,’ set in Berlin, Bilgere skillfully contrasts the weight of History bearing down on mankind with the simple pleasures a boy can take from the moment before him.
There’s nothing George Bilgere doesn’t take to heart, whether it’s a boy watching his father drink himself to death in a hotel room or a grown man who watches his family at play and marvels at the lucky breaks that have led him to this quiet happiness. Nobody captures the sorrows and beauties of this world better.
Even if you are already a devotee of George Bilgere, Central Air will startle you with its power. Haunting dispatches from Berlin, droll poems about late fatherhood, cheeky marital love lyrics, searing elegies, and laments for a country ‘growing stranger, less recognizable, more lonely every day’—in these new poems, Bilgere challenges and consoles us in his inimitable voice, achingly funny and unflinchingly tender.
Central to George Bilgere’s Central Air is travel and imagination, not being trapped inside all summer, not being trapped in rut. His speaker (or his speaker’s imagination) is in Berlin, Alaska, Saint Louis, Japan, and Vietnam (as it was in the ’60s, as it is now). He pays homage to Rilke and Dickinson. He pays homage to the Slip ’N Slide of yesterday and the Paw Patrol of today. Bilgere is a mature, hilarious poet contemplating his own mortality.
George Bilgere is professor of English literature at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of seven collections of poetry and has received grants and awards from the Fulbright Foundation, the Pushcart Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Witter Bynner Foundation through the Library of Congress, the May Swenson Poetry Award, the Society of Midland Authors award, and the Cleveland Arts Prize. He spends his summers in Berlin, Germany, but lives during the academic year in Cleveland with his wife and two sons.