John Amen’s Strange Theater lives up to its name in that it is a strange book. Most of the poems are written to people we do not know. It appears that they are friends or acquaintances of the author but we are not sure about this. It also appears that he haphazardly throws words together to make sentences that do not make sense but somehow are able to tell a story. In this way, Amen reminds me of Federico Garcia Lorca.
Kerdijk Nicholson’s poems are not difficult to read: they flow in straightforward rhythms, and take on familiar landscapes and territories, but the poems in Everyday Epic are much more complex then they seem at first glance. It is through the everyday moments of such universal elements as love, grief, work, that we find the epic, and in those old stories of conquest and domination, where we find our most shameful and least ‘epic’ natures.
During the Crusades, European priests kissed cannons, by way of blessing them, as soldiers marched east to fight what was perceived as the threat of Islam. Instead of cannons, Antonio J. Hopson uses words as his weapon of choice in the poetry collection Seven, and that for the most part focuses on a love affair. “I am a poet. I use words” (Mr. Law, 31). Amazingly, his use of words gives the impression that this affair—at least for him—resembles the carnage of the Crusades.
Time and again, the poetry confounds expectations and unpicks itself, structurally, grammatically, and linguistically, presenting what looks like a story, a letter, a footnote, a telegram, a Wikipedia entry, a diary entry, or even a simple poem about a single thing, only to undo the stereotype, the perception, or the form, through a reworking of its conventions.
The voice of the playwright is obvious in Christine Evan’s verse novel Cloudless. A rich blend of characterisation, setting, and powerful thematic weaving from poem to poem, the novel takes us deep into the heart of working class Perth in the 1980s. Each of the eight key voices who make up the story are on the cusp of something: their lives about to change.
From Louisiana to Honduras, Susan Swartwout covers much ground in her poetry collection, Odd Beauty, Strange Fruit. The collection is billed as a gothic take on Southern culture, and in some aspects it is, but there is more here than meets the eyes or first reading. The collection also tells a family’s history and the impact of this on the life of the individual who tells it.
Beyond the mistakes and the failings of humans which are highlighted in these poems, there is something that redeems us. We can, and must, love, and transcend. IV is a collection poetry about the ephemeral nature of life, of pain, about how we learn, grow, become mindful/present/enlightened, and above all, about love. No matter how much we’ve severed, sutured, eluded and deconstructed, love is always transformative.
Jesih is from Slovenia. Natural aspects of this country, along with the author’s own thrust toward existential questions, serve to inform the poems in the book. He takes notes while walking, while reflecting, and brings the reader along for the journey. One gets the sense from his poetry that Jesih is a peripatetic wordsmith.
Though the lessons that Langford presents through this work are harsh, the writing never falters. It is always lyrical, exquisite, and ultimately affirmative. Though there is nothing didactic about Ground, these are poems that teach us know to go on in the face of what we’ve done, through words, dance, sorrow, attention and ultimately love.
This work is Ecopoetry at its most astute—where nature is primary, and human perception becomes transfigured by the encounter. All or nearly all of the poetry is set in The Hunter Valley, NSW (Australia), and many poems revisit these places from different perspectives, different stories, and different times of day, life, emotional contexts.