My sixth book of poetry Salt of the Earth: Doubts and Faith has just been published by Kelsay Books. It’s my third book of poetry in the last ten months, the others being Puddin’: The Autobiography of a Baby, A Memoir in Prose Poems (Third World Press, November, 2022) and Let the Baby Sleep (In Case of Emergency Press, July, 2023).
Here is the first poem in the book:
Mercy! Charity! Faith! Holy!
Holy the lone juggernaut! Holy the vast lamb of
the middleclass! Holy the crazy shepherds of rebellion!
— Allen Ginsberg, “Footnote to ‘Howl’ ”
Answers are demanded of too many questions.
Write the vision, plain as a tabletop,
carved into barroom wood.
Vision has a time appointed,
presses on, will not lie. Wait for it.
Let go, ungrasp.
Let go, free.
Promissory note, hope.
The structure of bread.
A new moon over Highway 77.
Reptile, ogre, jackal, mud
— pure as any other thing.
Singer-king leapt and whirled
and claimed his loot, sinner
that he knew himself to be and prophet.
Wisdom is queen.
Here’s what some people I admire have to say about Salt of the Earth: Doubts and Faith:
Patrick T. Reardon is a tough Chicago newsman who writes award-winning poetry, a poet who hears music in the all-night thunder of a Chicago El, a historian of Chicago who archives its circulatory system of alleys, streets and neighborhoods, a spiritual seeker so open-minded that he still goes to church. That is why his new book of poems “The Salt of the Earth” is so damn tough, so rooted in the gritty heart of the city, and so profoundly spiritual. Reardon writes about “tax-collectors and porn performers and the drunk and near-drunk and an assortment of sinners, me among them, as if in a candy box.” His book is about belief and doubt, its spine fixed on asphalt and its heart free in heaven. It is everything poetry is supposed to be. — Michael Leach, author of “Soul Seeing” and “Why Stay Catholic?”
Patrick T. Reardon’s poems interrogate the mystery of suffering. His map is an exegesis of biblical texts that move between the hapless figures of scripture, who like all of us, don’t quite get it. Yet it is Reardon’s own wild and compassionate map of Chicago’s forgotten, lost, confused, all of us, that illumines. — Renny Golden, Professor Emerita of Justice Studies at Northeastern Illinois University and author of the poetry collection “The Music of Her Rivers.”
In “Salt of the Earth,” Patrick T. Reardon preaches, prophesizes, even pummels, but this poetry collection’s spiritual core resides in a much more recognizable and real milieu than the scriptures. It is an urban and emotional landscape littered with the detritus of a busy, confused, often humor-filled existence. These poems mirror religious and poetic tracts in order to bring us into a world profoundly cluttered, everlastingly unjust, and beautifully incongruent; a world filled with our own mistakes and triumphs. These poems are required Sunday School reading for all of us: believers, non-believers, and those on the fence. — Donald G. Evans, editor of “Wherever I’m At: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry” and founding executive director of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
Patrick T. Reardon