Jason Stefanik’s poetry collection, Night Becomes Years, elicits a bleak and somber outlook of the world. I kept thinking to myself about the idea that nature is—and will always be—in charge, and we’re destined to bend to its will; and while our good intentions bring an illusion of hope, we’re bound to fall to forces greater than ourselves. That might make the book sound like too much of a downer, but believe me when I say it’s not. It’s written in such a matter-of-fact tone that I was able to revel in Stefanik’s view, and I found a different kind of hope in accepting the world as it is, on its own terms.
‘But if you don’t truly believe, someone will kill you. These pellets,
if you eat these, which I place in your teeth, you’ll live on forever.’
‘Let us!’ wolves and foxes yelped. ‘We want to live that long!’
Whisky-Jack dropped a black pellet in each mouth. ‘Long shall you live.’
he said. ‘Now that you’ve accepted this faith, you’ll know peace.’
Whisky-Jack laughed as the wolves and foxes jumped in the air
and fell down dead. He scalped their pelts and carried them home,
impressed that by instructing religion he could kill so many
and in this manner pay off the great debts he had incurred.
He even repaid the traders by deceiving others with words.
-From “Whisky-Jack Preaches to the Wolves”
There is a disparity between what’s visible and what’s hidden from the characters (and the reader) in this book. Stefanik dissects someone’s surface-level actions and motivations, and then tries to get to a deeper truth in why they’re doing certain things. It’s fascinating to see this all come from one person, and the deft observation of the world shows he’s either incredibly perceptive of the people around him or he’s a master bullshitter. Either way, it makes for an excellent collection of poetry.