“Selected Poems” by John Brugaletta

This volume is a selection of poems from thirty years of work by an accomplished poet, so there is only room here to give a taste of what it is like to read the whole volume. The book is divided chronologically, but I will comment on the different types of poems it contains.

This poet is at his best when he is being hopeful but cynical: when he questions the reality we see and shows it from a different point of view. Sometimes he shows a hint of despair at the possibility of communication, but he is willing to try in any case.

His best works come when he takes a traditional story, whether classical or biblical, and lets us look at it from someone else’s point of view: a guest at Cana drinking Christ’s blessed wine, or the whale story from the point of view of Jonah.

His more traditional religious poetry – about a third of the book — is not so attractive. It is polished, with strong images, but would probably appeal most to readers with similar beliefs.

Mr. Brugaletta also has the true artist’s ability to show us an alternate interpretation of life, such as when he compares his poems to other people’s children, trotted out to entertain guests, or when he  pictures the poet searching for just the right word, to an angler on a day when the fish are not biting. He also compares marriage to a week in the life of a working couple, a metaphor that will appeal to many.

Only a few of these poems are in a lighter vein, and I appreciated the change. A huge ball of foil and a woman living her life backwards are special favourites of mine.

There are many effective poems in this collection dealing with death and aging, handled with the empathy and fine touch of someone with a lifetime of experience in the topic. In a like vein, his love poetry seems to come from a poet with a wonderful positive experience of the emotion.

Another strength is when he looks at classical mythology. Sometimes he falls into the academic trap of the Romantic poets, when it is difficult to understand the poem unless you are knowledgeable about Greek classical literature and mythology (the Trojan War is a great favourite of his). However, many of his classically oriented poems need only the slightest awareness of the original story, because the point being made is quite applicable to our modern lives. In fact Brugaletta does a good job of bridging the gap between academic poetry and the preferences of people with a more everyday education

This poet writes in a variety of styles, from freeform to sonnet. I found the less constricting versions more successful. When not controlled by rhyme and other format, his rhythms flow more freely, and his syntax is less obvious. A word about punctuation, as it is a personal point of irritation for me; unlike the less experienced poets I am asked to review, Mr. Brugaletta uses flawless normal punctuation and sentence structure, which I find a great aid in understanding and enjoying his poetry. In general,

I found this a book with a wide variety of material with a nice range of accessibility, from simple and straightforward to complex and academic. I recommend it to all poetry lovers, and would suggest it as a good example to young poets who want to know what polished poetry looks like.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)






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