Book Review :: Central Air by George Bilgere

Central Air by George Bilgere book cover image

Guest Post by James Scruton

“They resemble Eskimo Pies,” says George Bilgere of his air-conditioned neighbors in the title poem of his latest collection, Central Air, “or boxes of frozen peas.” Characteristically, he goes on to concede, “Not a bad life, I guess,” though admitting he’d miss the crickets “simmering / through summer, and the love / song of cicadas, burning / all night for each other, insect / ecstasies beyond our dreams.” This even-handedness typifies Bilgere’s approach, the poet awed by his good fortune on a pleasant summer evening (“Ripeness”) but also acknowledging the countless daily injustices suffered by others (“Summer Pass,” “For the Slip ‘N Slide”) as well as horrors on a global scale (“Chernobyl,” “Reichstag”). Bilgere delights in detail (“the stalled machinery” of a dead bee) as much as in the acoustics of language and the subtleties of line. Note the fatigue conveyed by the d’s in his description of a waitress’s voice (“tired, / frayed around the edges”) and the sudden, brightening weightlessness of the two-line stanza that follows:

But what she said hung sparkling
in the air, so masterful…

The collection produces the same heartening effect, Bilgere’s work a balance of light and dark, the amusing and the profound.


Central Air by George Bilgere. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2022.

Reviewer bio: James Scruton is the author of two full collections and five chapbooks of poetry as well as dozens of reviews, essays, and articles on poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

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