University Press of Florida
This is an interesting
collection of poems presented in several forms that usually cripple
any sense of fun or wonder in a poem. Wilson s voice through most
of the pieces is strong and direct about his subjects. He is at his
best when talking one on one with the reader in pieces like Legacies,
in which he remembers the death of his grandmother by fire, or in
Blood, where he ponders the meaning of a one woman's menus
while watching the blood of his wife's cycle flow down the shower
drain as he washes after sex. There is less strength to be found in
the pieces where he takes on a third person narrative, but these are
still interesting. Reminiscent of William Stafford, Wilson makes the
everyday difficulties of the world into accessible poetry and thereby
shows their universality.
THE SURGICAL THEATER
American Poetry Review Press
This is one of the best
collections of poetry I have read in a long time. It's the winner
of the American Poetry Review/ Hoickman First Book Prize, but this
should not deter people normally put off by academic prize-winners.
The collection also has an introduction by Louise Gluck (see above
disclaimer). Levin's poetical voice uses simple language to explore
the dark world of death, dying and decaying; sometimes literally,
other times metaphorically. Working outward from the most personal
thing that can be lost or threatened, the poems are divided into three
groups: Body, Home and World.
The opening poem, "Lenin's Body", gives
the reader a fly on the wall feel as the dead leader is prepared for
burial, and the last of the poems, "Smoke", captures the
tenuous feeling of holding on to a national, or really any, reality
too tightly. "Where are we going, my nation, my loved one/ in
this pit of water where we'll drown come Spring/ in this poem without
instruction/ without point or moral/ where the smoke stands in for
the flame." This simple straight forward style is as refreshing
as it is startling. In the wasteland that both academics and street
poets have allowed modern poetry to become, Dana Levin, has, it seems,
offered a voice for the dispossessed.
Red Hen Press
In her collection of
poems, 'Mystery Bruise', Terry Wolverton brilliantly reconstructs
the bruises and scars that make up a life. Through her words, we see
the American landscape in dark and somber tones. It is a land that
has orphaned it's children, turned it's back on battered lovers and
ignored the sick and dying. Make no mistake. These are not survivor
poems. We don't read through this collection because it offers hope
or inspiration. You won't find that here. We read on because of the
shared experiences, the lost loves and the shared suffering. We read
on because we can't help but feel for these broken children, the squandered
love and the dead friends. We read on because Wolverton isn't afraid
to look her demons in the eye. We read on because she tells the truth.
In 'The Dead Stepfather" Wolverton speaks of
the death of her estranged stepfather. She says: 'If there had been
a funeral, incense/would have smelled like gunpowder, gasoline,/and
gin, pews crowded with barflys, aging/soldiers, used care salesmen,
ghosts of children/clutching red balloons. We would have sung "The
One Rose," in lugubrious chorus, then/shared a stiff drink all
around.' By the end, we realize that this isn't just a man she is
speaking of. Not just some arbitrary monster, it is part of her. It
is the uncaring and unforgiving world around her. It is us, because
none of us escapes unscarred and this is why we read on.
RAIN AT MIDNIGHT
Sherman Asher Publishing
This is the fourth book
of poetry by Joseph Hutchinson and the first time I have come in contact
with his work. So poetry goes. There is probably a horde of talented
poets out in the world that I have never had contact with, and until
now, Hutchison has been one of them. THE RAIN AT MIDNIGHT is organized
into five sections. The poetry in each is excellent but I favor the
first two sections: "St. Failure's Hospital" and "The
Oldest Fear" and the last, "Brightness and Shadow",
for their straight forward approach to telling a story. The piece
I keep returning to is in the first section and is titled "Daffodils".
"Let's speak of anguish at the root / of daffodils..." the
poet begins, and falls hopelessly into the most spectacular diatribe
about hopelessness. "Let's talk about how sick we've become /
of breath....Let's lie down in the dirt and blossom in silence."
Everything in Hutchison's world is alive with longing
and regret, especially the writer. In "The One Armed Boy", the protagonist
lies almost asleep and "the arm / that never was reaches out, / touches
something even the boy / can't name. Like rain at midnight / falling
into a field of poppies, it / gently bathes his non-existent hand.""
His is the language of bones, flesh and blood caught up in a world
that feels cruel, but may just be unconcerned. His work also reflects
a sense of humor of the sort that has made bitterness bearable in
the work of better known writers like Billy Collins or Tony Hoagland.
In "Sandman", the writer tries to coax the saint of insomniacs into
a drunken sleep so that he too may sleep, but finds, "He's taken a
powder...and wants to talk, / talk, talk about his sleepless life.
Well, / what can I do? I hug him like a brother. / I let him cry on
my shoulder till dawn."
I could go on for a while about Hutchison's way
with words, but it would be much better if you took them out for a
spin for yourself.
EN EL DESIERTO
Rain in the Desert
Sherman Asher Press
Once again Marjorie
Agosin has given the world a book of poetry that is at once both awesomely
beautiful and painfully disturbing. A travelogue through the Atacama
Desert, (the real desert as well as the desert of the human soul),
where Chilean mothers searched for their disappeared children during
the rein of Agousto Pinoche, this is a book to be wept over in candle
lit rooms. Presented, as always, with the Spanish original alongside
the English translation, I am forced, as an English speaker, to rely
on the accuracy of Celeste Kostopolus-Cooperman's translation, but
given the sheer force and depth of the language here I can only believe
that this is a just translation. Agosin's desert is a living force,
a place "...where the day was a sun in love with itself...",
a place with a voice and a presence that draws people to seek out
whatever horrors or hope it has contained in its memory, because Agosin's
desert does have a memory a well as a soul. The characters of these
poems constantly visit the desert searching, sleeping and making love
amid reoccurring themes of rain and night ("She wanted to know
the night when // the silence conjured the souls of the dead.").
The poems here are transcendent and stunning to the mind as well as
the mind's eye. Agosin is able to conjure images for the reader the
way most filmmakers only dream of and her work should be read with
the deliberation you would give a fine bottle of wine. If you are
unfamiliar with her work this is a fine place to begin your acquaintance,
and if you are already a fan I'm sure I don't need to say anymore.