Friday, December 01, 2006

Five Books, The Fourth

I have a multilayered ulterior motive in recommending Coleman BarksClub – Granddaughter Poems. This work, inspired directly by the author's interactions with his granddaughter Briny has some fine moments, such as the book’s opening, No Finale, which starts

If I were dying, or if I were convinced
I were dying soon, say within a year, if
I were told so by doctors, I would write
a bunch of poems out of my nervousness
and my love for being here.

The line breaks that make this opening all about the narrator (note the prominence of the “I” in the first three lines - this is clearly conscious, as there is no "I" in Coleman Barks) contrast immediately with the observations and direct quotes of the young granddaughter, as in “In Opening Game Day Traffic”, where Briny explains football (spacing of the first line is off):

pass the ball between your legs, you
go hurt somebody, then you start over.

I hate to sell it short with descriptions like “charming”, because there is craft here (especially in Briny’s drawings of imaginary composite animals), but “charming” is often what gets the casual reader across the threshold into a poem. And here is my mild deception: Once the casual reader is familiar with this small volume, she or he may spy the name Coleman Barks and find themselves purchasing Gourd Seed, or borrowing The Essential Rumi from the library. Then they’ll have, without noticing, slipped and fallen headlong into a world of poetry they’d have walked by without seeing not so long before.

Next up: Book Five and the Honorable Mentions. Which is not a bad name for a rock band. One composed of librarians and county fair judges, of course, but no one rocks like a librarian.

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