These poems are moving, experienced, and, in their own hardbitten earthy way, pretty elegant. I love the way Stewart’s affection for his subject, his genuine sweetness, keeps being close-shaved by a tough, realistic sense of limits. The knowledge in these poems is hard-won, the craft impressive.
Stewart’s father was a plumber, and in the book’s second section are the freshest, most surprising poems, extending the memory, observation, and metaphor of plumbing in various ways. . . . A reader can’t help being glad, finally, that Stewart has gone on to write poems instead of fixing pipes, to learn in other ways that “things seldom leak / where they drip.”
—Mark Vinz, North Dakota Quarterly
Poets are meant to contemplate the way the world works, the way the heart works. Stewart’s metaphoric explorations, rooted strongly in concrete imagery and experience, are highly accessible and resonant. It’s a marvelous blending of the real and imaginary worlds, the physical and the cerebral, spoken in plain, forthright language and with no small amount of subtle humor. . . . There is an unexpected spirituality here and . . . a remarkable series of sepia-toned snapshots: of Italian immigrants, family dinners (the “sacrament of pasta”), fatherly advice and childhood memories fused with the present.
—Steve Paul, The Kansas City Star
The 40 poems in Robert Stewart’s book, Plumbers, celebrate not only the trade of plumbing, in lyrics and litanies, but also the poets’ family life and experiences. Stewart documents the plumber’s life, articulating it in true terms, lofty and earthy. While the plumber (representing the poet’s father . . .) is the central theme, Stewart adds an important background of family and friends and current events.
Plumbers reveals Stewart as a finely balanced poet of unique imagination and understanding.
—Charles Guenther, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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