30 Jul

Review of Drop and Dazzle by Peggy Dobreer

Review by Julianne Carew

Drop and Dazzle

At once transient and yet powerfully grounding, Peggy Dobreer’s poetry collection, Drop and Dazzle, leads readers through an assemblage of life’s most defining moments, including birth, death, and every human emotion that can be found in between. By contrasting the intimacies of everyday life with the vastness of the universe, Dobreer successfully encapsulates the intensity of the corporeal experience, while at the same time making it clear that “we are stardust, hardly a thought, a fleeting note on its way to a verse or song.”

From the collection’s first poem, “Climbing the Moment of Birth,” Dobreer emphasizes an internal relationship with the outside world, and the impact this has on an individual. She states, “On a war-tired base, under desert skies, the only thing I remember of my birth is the smell of death.” By sensually connecting the first moments of existence with the reality of its imminent conclusion, Dobreer stresses the immediacy of life, the fragility of all that it has to offer, and sets the stage for the work that follows.

Sprinkled throughout Drop and Dazzle is the subject of continuity, and how the creation of something inevitably marks the beginning of its end. In “Genesis,” Dobreer writes, “Like, force, it has no opposition/until something moves against it.” In poetically highlighting the natural observer effect that humanity unconsciously adheres to, Dobreer emphasizes the simple fact that life has meaning because we provide it. Life, storytelling, the very idea of artistic expression, it is all a way of reacting to a force in which we have no control over. Dobreer follows up with this concept in a later poem, “Ashes to Ashes,” which concludes with the phrase, “You can finally forget the world, return unto the earth.”

In conjunction with thought-provoking, philosophical concepts, there are many sobering moments throughout the collection that speak for the immense struggles of the human experience. In “The Hands of Glory,” Dobreer brings attention to the obscured focus of public opinion when she describes a public execution. After a man is put to death and his handkerchief is stolen, “the execution crowd disbursed, they mourned the loss of the miracle, maybe more so than the life of the man on the rope.” On a more personal note, she later continues, “I checked. My breath was there/becoming deeper, more pronounced, the way breath will in the presence/of a body without one gasp left.”

In short, Drop and Dazzle lives up to its title. At once dazzling and thought-provoking, Dobreer’s ethereal literary voice leaves readers breathless, feeling at once empowered, and humbled within the star-studded universe she creates within the constructs of a page.

 

 

 

05 May

Staff Review: The Green of Sunset by John Brantingham

(the following review will also be published in Volume 2, Issue 1)

John Brantingham’s The Green of Sunset is a beautiful collection of prose poetry. Brantingham explores the human psyche to depths we, ourselves, almost refuse to acknowledge until present with truths we prefer to not think about. And that is exactly what he does. Yet he treats each subject and each emotion with the utmost respect and humanity. The only judgment he makes, if any, is on his own follies and we, as readers, can learn to laugh at our own.

The collection is a series of breathless poems, power beyond the measure of each. He explores a wide range of humanity and human experience from youth to loss, people in relation to nature, memory, and even briefly a body swap all with deceptively simple language.

… but I wasn’t afraid because my mother was framed in the back door, calling to me, and that fundamentalist faith I had that as long as she was there even God couldn’t reach out his hand and strike me down for the sins written on my childhood soul.

from “Mythology”

Brantingham is a master of the written word—each choice is deliberate and reflects the meaning of the whole poem and collection, building into a crescendo for each ending. There are no punches pulled and nowhere left to hide from confronting his reality—a reality we all know too well. His personal reflections are those we recognize as fleeting moments in our own lives, these deep secrets we try to hide from are brought to life on the page.

Anders is probably the first poet I’ve ever known who distrusts academia and teachers and schools and education in general. …. He tells me about why he didn’t finish high school, about the physics teacher who belittled him in front of his friends. He tells me about how when I was in college, he was bumming his way through Europe, Asia, India, Africa, and South America. …. He’s like so many of the students I’ve seen, feeling like outsiders, being told that they don’t belong.

from “Up Here in Rural Canada”

The Green of Sunset is a collection to turn to at any moment, to read and re-read until the pages are worn. You may or may not find comfort within the book, but you will find parts of you that you didn’t know had wandered off.