In his poetry collection, Driving Together, Tyler Robert Sheldon shares personal observations of seemingly simple moments in his life: observations on a hummingbird, a physical scar, yard work, and graduate school. Spanning all of these subjects, Sheldon’s poems use crisp imagery and storytelling. Through his prevalent themes of childhood experiences, the nature of Kansas, and the relationship to his wife, Sheldon reveals to his readers an unexpected depth to life’s simplicity by use of imagery.
In his poem, “Universal Solvents,” Tyler Robert Sheldon recalls a dream he had as a child which leads to the discovery of his twin brother’s death. He describes his dream using concrete images that help the reader to picture this occurrence:
At six I dreamt of drowning
He tells his parents at breakfast about this dream and they interpret the shark to be his twin brother who didn’t make it. Sheldon then conceptualizes this information by projecting it onto his observation of his mother simply breaking yokes over a skillet at breakfast:
I see only a white shark sinking
Through imagery, he makes sense of the death of his brother as he observes life around him.
Imagery consistently plays throughout Tyler Sheldon’s poetry to emphasize his observations and to make meaning of an idea. In his poem “Satori,” which in itself means enlightenment, the author uses the analogy of a door, and in particular the image of “a screen door swinging on one hinge.” He paints the picture of a door that has been tattered and beat up:
In the middle
He ends with the notion that to be happy is to understand that the events of our life mimic this door: “To be happy / is to say that maybe the door / was always this way.” Sheldon takes the simplicity of a door and uses its image to give an analogy to say we ought to be content in the chaos, or to find happiness in acceptance of the knowledge of life’s permanent hardship.
In “Finding Yourself,” the author ends his collection with something distinct from the rest of his poems. He poses questions of what seem to be ways of finding himself in the form of colorful scenes. He still continues to intertwine images of nature from his home in the Midwest, as he does in other poems such as “Code” and “Red-Tails.” For example, “...will you be the one who dances / through wheat fields with a mason jar / building his own lamp?” and “Will you build and burn a bonfire / and sing into the night / and find animals / and wishes in smoke / or lines for poems?” He uses nature imagery to create a place in which an artist as himself may explore, becoming a part of his world and nature by dancing in the fields, building a lamp with fireflies, building a fire, singing in the company of animals, and using smoke for wishes. It is in the simple beauty of nature and living in nature that Sheldon presents the notion that a poet may discover inspiration for his work.
Tyler Robert Sheldon successfully examines life through the eyes of a poet, transporting his readers into his environment, home, and relationships. It is through his ability to reflect on observations and experiences by way of vivid images that the reader is able to gain a new perspective of life.