Have you ever been to a retrospective of an artist’s work, set up chronologically? This book of poetry strikes me that way. The poet starts out with more straightforward material,
which changes as the book goes on and the writer moves into more obscure and creative forms of expression.
The Early Stages
“Fine China” is a solid metaphor, carried through all the way to the end of the poem that brought out a chuckle because of the aptness. Several of the other works in the first part of the book are successful in the artist’s objective of inducing us to look at an everyday object in a different way. “Because You Love Me” is particularly striking in this respect, giving us a definitely opposite view of the traditional gift of flowers.
But Later On…
I had a Fine Arts prof who once remarked that it was awfully easy to be original but much harder to make originality meaningful. Like this book, which starts out more accessible and moves into the more creative and less meaningful as it goes along. I’m sure the intent is to let us get to know the author’s work slowly, so that we can follow where he goes. The attempt is not successful.
The punctuation doesn’t help. Commas and the ends of lines are supposed to be there to aid in hearing or speaking the poem aloud. When they are misused, they become impediments. Likewise, poets are constrained by the same rules as prose writers to make their work meaningful. Lines like “What will it do when it reaches it,” don’t work in a novel or a poem.
I have to admit that “Train Tracks” completely eludes me. I have no idea what it’s about. “Darkness Between Stars” likewise. A string of beautiful phrases, unconnected one from the other, and any of them from meaning. And the final few pages defy the definition of poetry, and while entertaining at one level, communicate little.
While my personal reaction to this anthology would lean towards three stars, I’m willing to give the poet the benefit of the doubt because of the earlier poems. Other readers enjoy their poetry more obscure, which can disguise either weakness or creativity. I’ll leave it up to you.
(4 / 5)