With its keen eye and impeccable phrasing, Lisa Bellamy’s The Northway gives us good-natured laughter, the kind of feeling you get from a Masterpiece Theater series…and it is ever so much more respectable and rewarding than a binge-watch.
The poetry manages to be both pithy and almost hysterically funny, not an easy mix to achieve, but that is how life works: the paradox of what we carry and what we experience in each moment. Whitlock captures this duality perfectly, taking a stand-up comedian’s incision to pretension and human foibles.
The aforementioned exuberance comes with the author’s novel treatment of the everyday—those ordinary, mundane tasks and chores we take for granted. Who would think to write a pantoum about dishwashing liquid? Yet Smallwood carries it off, and braids colloquial language with scientific. She assumes a persona the reader can identify with.
Some secrets when told are betrayals, or suicides, blood spilled or spells cast, for magic and saints governing and protecting, are also secret languages, the ancient rites of certain religions also called “mysteries.” And, so it is in this well-balanced and short collection, an excursion into mysteries, methods of preserving and enduring.
It is a collection of incredibly intelligent and subtle poetry that never loses focus of its themes. It is a poetry that aches toward redemption even as it is bogged down by histories and impulses that cannot be undone. So between the transcendent and the incarnate there is a wrestling for justice.
We may not often be able to control the trajectory of our choices, but we do have the option to recognize them responsibly and honestly. Harél shows us we have an obligation to not glaze over those choices with false distortions that appease our fragile egos and illusions and compromise truth and reality. He examines places where our expectations and confidence become derailed.
Kenneth Salzmann may be a musical guy enthralled with jazz, but in this instance music is really a metaphor for poetry. He is a poet. I’m a fan of poetry like his. It’s as simple as that—and as messy. You see, his poetry really does creep into the bones, the marrow, the blood.
These are poems that pivot on a moment: a chance meeting, a sudden change in situation, or a close observation that takes something commonplace such as an afternoon on the back verandah watching fireworks, driving a vehicle, or reading the news and moves in so close it becomes abstract: a synecdoche for something else. In a way that’s Proustian, the imagery gives rise to a memory, or a perception which is emotive and powerful, revealing something subtle about the world.
Smallwood’s collection of finely honed, detail filled verses spring from the page as though borne on wings to fill the air, the room, the location with perfume for the eyes. I enjoyed reading these verses, some more than once, others a quick passage with scant time to savor the message before rushing on to the next just to see what was there.
If anything is consistent throughout Jampole’s work, it is its semiotic density. Cubist States of Mind/Not the Cruelest Month can feel like a lightning-quick read from cover-to-cover-to-cover, but begs to be re-read. The moment one closes the book, one has the peculiar sensation of having read it years ago, its contents so intricately layered that memory alone can only render the broad strokes.