Reviews for Natural Trouble (Fordham University Press, 2003)

James Devitt:

Natural Trouble continues the investigation begun by Hightower in Tin Can Tourist. Throughout Natural Trouble, the theme of inheritance extends through changes of landscape and bad weather to hungers, urgencies, iniquities, and bereavements. The epigraph for the collection a quote from Melville­­introduces the dubious notion of owing one¹s allegiance to symbols, guises, and ceremonies rather than to nature.

Rather than scientific inquiry into nature, the poems of Natural Trouble fundamentally ask about the nature of philosophical invention, "What it is that art wants, what it is that art is doing?"

More often than nature, aesthetic notions rule the day. For Hightower, the space one occupies before and after one's life are clearly realms without art. The earthly world is the only realm strewn not only with natural wonders and artifacts but with human artifice . . . and, ultimately, the geography of human praise.

J. D. McClatchy:

"Truly a cabinet of curiosities, each poem a collage of surprising or remembered details, opening onto further marvels. The effect is vertiginous--and exhilarating. Scott Hightower has Marianne Moore's scissors and Elizabeth Bishop's spectacles, and he has written a book in the spirit of their adventurous precisions."

Rigoberto Gonzalez:

Scott Hightower's poems are elegant and graceful elegies for the beauty of unfamiliar and overlooked landscapes. Ambitious in scope and charming in the particulars of discovery, Natural Trouble weaves the smallest of strands-including song, light, and color-into a compelling tapestry of history, both personal and communal. Only the freshest vision and language suit Hightower's journeys across the timelines of civilizations as he makes gorgeous connections between human grief and the healing word.


Anonymous reviewer

Hightower really is one of the finest, most dependable poets around. These poems are clear, ambitious, and original. The first and last poems in this collection deal with Spain. He is a native of Texas. And then there are interesting poems about capital punishment to suicide bombers in between. Forget about the sloppy and trendy attention grabbers, Hightower is the real thing. His poems are classically smart and full of heart.

Louis McKee
Painted Bride Arts Ctr., Philadelphia
for Library Journal Feb. 15, 2004:

"No observer loiters in these framed estates./ Abundance spills and overwhelms with milk// and honey. The wolf, the bright-eyed leopard,/ and the young lion lying beside the lamb,// the kid, the calf . . . ." Hightower's work is not unlike the Edward Hicks painting that he describes; an odd menagerie, not of beasts, but of unexpected details, people and ideas; a Peaceable Kingdom indeed. Nathaniel Hawthorne and former President Pierce share adjoining rooms in a wayfarer's inn one eventful night; Zelda and Scott come undone, unable to hold one another together; there is a letter from Melville and allusions to Caravaggio's David, the head of Goliath, and Ribera¹s Jerome; Sappho is even allowed to ponder Madonna and the treatment she receives from the tabloids and late-night television. Nothing is off-limits to Hightower, nor does anything seem out of place. If his tone is sometimes light, it is also smart and brave. If you commit to going with him, the poet will take you into shadowy corners of uncomfortable neighborhoods. His voice is at once graceful and colloquial, perhaps the reason we don¹t hesitate to follow. Besides, that's where the action is. Recommended for contemporary poetry collections.

Jean Gallagher:

It's funny, it's sweet, it's every-so-slightly gender-bending (I immediately think of "female trouble"). It's just dandy.

Michael Cornelius
The Gay and Lesbian Review, March-April, 2004
(Volume XI, No.2):

Storytelling is not a sobriquet one often hears applied to contemporary poets, but the best poets can articulate the sense and semblance of a place or event with a few deft word choices and well-placed turns of phrases.  Take Scott Hightower's poem "Currency at the 'Common Ground,'" a seemingly simple narrative poem that captures one brief moment in an upstate New York gay bar.  The poem begins with a kiss­­a stolen moment between the two lesbian proprietors of the bed and breakfast the narrator of the poem stays at­­and ends the same way, at the close of a drag performance: "Bills rustle­­some themselves offerings/ just taken by other performers;/ in turn, openly bestowed, along/ with the tuck of an acknowledging look,/ the genuine tribute of a modest kiss." The simple gesture becomes paramount to the poet whose eye has caught the importance of this nonchalance. Such is the brilliance of Hightower's poetry: simple words and everyday experiences combine with the author's innate ability to choose just the right word and right experienced to document.  Natural Trouble, which follows Hightower's excellent debut collection Tin Can Tourist, offers poetry that is both comforting and transcendent, a rare combination that leaves the reader both breathless and warmed by the experience. His narrative lyrics set to the page those small but important moments that occur in all our lives, and weave in larger ideas about time, biography, and one's place in the grander scheme of things.

John Reed,
The Brooklyn Rail:

And I recommend Natural Trouble, a collection of poems by Scott Hightower (Fordham Press). Tough-minded and elegant, Hightower is a singular balance of poetic tradition and poetic revolution. Hightower, in his second book, effortlessly demonstrates a compassion and wisdom that commands the attention of his readers.

Yvette Christiansë:

The ambition of Hightower's latest book is huge, nothing short of a Whitmanesque temporality--an acknowledgement of time's exacting price and a desire to transcend it.  His persona looks at the world and takes the ("natural"?) trouble to consider the ethical challenges of what it means to come face to face with another. He finds in art not only a consolation but also an ethical imperative.  By asking what it is that art wants, what it is that art is doing, Hightower takes up the challenge of bringing uncertainty into language."

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