In addition to being a gifted poet, Richard Chess is a kind and generous teacher whom I was lucky to encounter back when I was an MFA student. Some months ago, the happy news reached me that a new collection of his work was forthcoming. Love Nailed to the Doorpost, which was released earlier this spring, is Chess’s fourth collection to be published by the University of Tampa Press, after Tekiah (1996), Chair in the Desert (2000), and Third Temple (2006).
A number of the pages in this new volume were familiar to me, because they appeared originally as posts in the Image/Patheos “Good Letters” blog series, and I’ve been following Rick’s contributions there for a long time. At first, I was a bit surprised to find these pieces in the book. I hadn’t necessarily perceived the pieces to be poems when I’d first read and admired them as blog posts.
But maybe my sense of the term “poetry collection” is too rigid. And if Claudia Rankine’s Citizen can win poetry-book awards and accolades, then Chess’s incredibly lyrical, “poetic” prose certainly merits its place in this book.
In fact, these pieces may be among my favorites in the entire volume. Read the Yom Kippur-inspired “Confession.” Read this earlier version of a piece now titled “Enemies of Israel, Enemies of the Jews.” You’ll see what I mean.
What a gift it was to spend a few hours immersed (and re-immersed) in Rick Chess’s singular spirit, which suffuses this work as it does his others. I remain grateful that our paths crossed so many years ago, and I thank Rick and his publisher for so generously sharing a sample copy of Love Nailed to the Doorpost with me.