Friday, May 21, 2010

As free as verse gets

kw: book reviews, poetry, free verse

Free verse puzzles me. I must not
Have the right kind of mind for it.
Rhyme and reason (rhythm) comfort me.

But blank verse has a certain Majesty.
Though rhyme be missing, still its rhythms soothe
My searching heart; they carry me along.

But enough of that. I like sonnets and other structured poems best, but I'm rather bad at producing them. I appreciate artistry in any mode. In The Bride of E by Mary Jo Bang, I read over page after page with little affect, then found nuggets of brilliant imagery:
. . . Look at him. He's on a stage.
He is silently sizing up the table he takes in
As he stares down. This is the world
When it's reduced down to a moment.
(from "F is for Forgetting")
This touched me particularly because it evokes the emotions I've seen on the faces of Alzheimer's Syndrome sufferers. The moment is all they have. But the author's work is as frequently parodic and humorous, as "Quoth the raven, 'Give me more—.'" followed a few stanzas later by "Her name is Lenore Nevermore."

The first part of the book, some 80% of the whole, is "traditional" free verse titled in acrostic order, usually several to a letter (e.g. "P Equals Pie" followed by "In the Present and Probably Future"). The second comprises five mostly longer pieces without the free verse line breaks. They could have been broken up, but instead run on thus:
A feeling I would be exposed. It stayed in my mind as a central element. The stage. The silver screen. Profound and pervasive coloring. At a distance from myself. I was born and raised to be set in relief. (1/4 of a paragraph from "G is Going")
The author's work is apparently very well received. This is her sixth book of poetry. I don't read a lot of poetry, and usually prefer more tightly structured work, but the artistry in this book is evident, and I'm glad I read it.

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