“Dragging the Lake” is Thomas’ second volume of poetry, building on the strengths of the first, “Door to Door.” The latter demonstrated his verbal and psychological knack for expressing the sentiments of others, including a remarkable ability (and desire) to give voice to women.
The book’s unifying theme is that of love and music, subtly but effectively emphasized by a structure that suggests sonata form: three sections with music-related subtitles. Cellist Jacqueline du Pré’s gossipy patter to her therapist, expounding her love for both pianist Daniel Barenboim and the cello, is called “Concerto in E Minor.”
Thomas is equally adept at composing musical prose poems and free verse, among them the title poem. As the speaker listens to Desdemona praying—in Verdi’s opera and her voice suddenly descends an octave into the blue and bronze waters of Venice and it’s clear that of course she would have driven Othello mad, I think of you singing that Elvis Costello hit about dragging the lake, your voice faltering, finding itself and faltering again, the arch of your throat an architectural treasure, a Bridge of Sighs ... Past, present, real, imagined, high culture and pop—Thomas blends them with intelligence and flair.