Odes to Tools

Odes to Tools coverPhoenicia Publishing, 2010.
PRINT: 32 pages; $7.50
EBOOK for Kindle or EPUB readers, $2.99

Shorter description

Twenty-five uncommon poems inspired by common hand tools.

Longer description

These poems represent an attempt to come up with a lyrical critique of teleology — the belief that nature or history can be explained by some sort of ultimate purpose or design. What if one actually is a tool? Doesn’t a favorite tool often become more than just an instrument of the worker’s will? Doesn’t every successful tool in fact acquire a bit of an aura, sometimes even a personality?

Odes to Tools is also one of those subversive cross-over books, perfect as a gift for someone who loves tools but thinks they don’t like poetry. They’ll be surprised to find a poet who appreciates tools with his words in much the same way they take care of their own saws or planes: not wrapped in fancy fabric or elevated like sculptures, but held comfortably in the hands, thought about like friends, and cared for now and then with a little oil on a clean cloth.

Sample poems

Ode to a Wire Brush” at Verse Daily
Browse the original series at Via Negativa


“How can you get lost, in a thirty page book? But I did. All these poems have edges, teeth. It’s a brilliant collection.”
Dale Favier in Mole

“Dave denies his handiness, but knows his way with poetry. The socket wrench handles torque and clicks against the gearwheel’s teeth. The saw too has teeth, as many as a school of piranhas, thus it copes. The claw hammer has a pair of legs strong enough between them to birth nails. Emissaries from a country that no longer exists, he says of the scythe. I picked up the scythe when my gas-powered, industrial weed-eater with bush blade finally surpassed my small-engine repair skills. Silent tools have their own manner of speaking. Thanks Dave for finding the words.”
John Miedema (books blog)

“The inspired conceit of honoring traditional tools enables the author to look beyond the human lives that preoccupy so many contemporary poets, to focus instead on the implements used to shape such lives. […] In the service of tradition, Bonta’s subjects not only make their own beautiful music but sometimes speak to one another. They make readers mindful of what might yet be made of the past, without calling up feelings of nostalgia.”
Noel Sloboda in Verse Wisconsin

“Humble objects, a bucket and a shovel, as are the other tools considered here: a spirit level, a socket wrench, a hive tool. Yet it is a joy to see these simple objects through the eyes and language of this intelligence.”
Sherry Chandler (blog)

“The titling of these poems is surely a nod to Pablo Neruda, and the comparison doesn’t go amiss. What makes these poems work is their juxtaposition of mundane objects with breathtaking leaps of imagery.”
Rachel Barenblat in Best American Poetry blog

“My favorite in the collection is the ode to one of my favorite tools, the coping saw, a tool I’ve used, misused and loved longer than most others. (What a glorious day it was when I learned I could replace that rusty old blade!) In Dave’s writing, this most space-hogging and least dense of tools becomes a jumping off point for examining ideas bigger than the tool itself, and the coping saw’s sturdy flexibility becomes a near-Taoist metaphor for the strength found in yielding, a certain wisdom in emptiness.”
James Brush in Coyote Mercury

“His chapbook is wonderfully accessible, and I mean that in the most positive way. Even those of us who haven’t used the tools will likely understand the poems.”
Kristin Berkey-Abbott (blog)

“I admire the precision of language and observation in this book, how the setting unfolds around the focus on the tool at hand, and how each poem, moving quickly and lightly, can also, if it wants, take on a large philosophical idea.”
Kathleen Kirk (blog)

“This amazing little book is as charming as it is heartbreaking. In this book, the work of ‘repairing’ and ‘building’ finds roots in the breaks of life. I highly recommend reading this collection. […]

“To bring Odes To Tools with me in my hometown, I decided to hand write Bonta’s poems onto Thank You Cards. I gave these ‘love letters to tools’ to people who work with them everyday.

“I met many kind, generous, and funny people while sharing Odes To Tools with my community. For this (and many other reasons), I’m grateful to Dave Bonta. His book has helped me connect with the physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects of my home–it has helped bring poetry closer to those who construct the home I love.”
Nicelle Davis (blog)