Friday, October 10, 2014

Review of "Poetry For The Now 2" by Johan Lewis - A Compilation of Poems That Is An Intriguing Dance of The Seven Veils

My reading of poetry is sporadic, so I do not often review books of poetry.  But I found this book to be so intriguing that I am happy to make an exception and to take a stab at describing "Poetry For The Now 2" by Johan Lewis and illustrated by Wilson Tanner.  And I will try to write a review that is in keeping with the tone and voice of these poems - which run the gamut from short haiku-like pithy quips to the meandering "Oh, The Crimes Of Other Men" which runs to over 300 lines.  Here is an example of the former:


"I missed the mark
when I married you."
How the hell
did you think I would take that?

Here is an excerpt from the latter:

Oh, The Crimes Of Other Men

I stood up in class
and spoke my mind.

No boundaries
no fears
no pressure of peers
no glue on my lips.

Sprang forth from my lungs
a finer truth
such that my comrades
had never heard before.

I spoke
of wings of prehistoric animals,
of leering men in the backgrounds of historic photographs,
of religions only known to one man,
of the hygiene of Hitler,
of the theorems of the assistants of supposed geniuses,
of languages long forgotten but still used,
of music everyone will get sick of,
of strange foods with stranger ways to eat it,
of footwear made from hand skin,
of not needing to be places,
of time and place and not ever who,
of regret too soon and satisfaction too late,

[I will jump ahead now to the end of the poem, skipping a couple of hundred lines that run along the same stream of consciousness course]

of tried and true methods of interpreting a sneer,
of self defense with a spatula,
of drilling,
of loving your job, damn it,
of window wiping,
of it

Of course,
by that point,
the class had long already left,
lived their lives,
had children
and died.

There simply is no such thing
as discipline any more,
is there?

What is fascinating to me about this compilation of poems are the glimpses that the reader is able to discern of the poet through the words and images - as well as behind and between them.  He offers occasional peeks at a naked and vulnerable Lost Boy who does a frenetic Dance of the Seven Veils to keep that nakedness hidden much of the time.  What are those veils?

1) The Veil of Cynicism - appearing to have seen it all and being wise beyond his years, but still somehow innocent
2) The Veil of Irony - writing with a wry sense of humor and an arched eyebrow
3) The Veil of Iconoclasm - poking clever fun at sacred cows
4) The Veil of Ambivalence - loving and hating the rat race of life in New York City
5) The Veil of Insouciance - pretending to be OK with the fact the the world seems to be going to hell in a hand basket
6) The Veil of Mis-Direction - giving poems names that on the surface do not seem to address the subject matter
7) The Veil of Cool Detachment - talking about hurtful things as if they do not really hurt all that much.

Catching glimpses of the man behind the veils makes me want to know him, to ask him about that game of spin-the-bottle that went too far, about the girlfriend who broke his heart but did not really. His poesie makes him both mysterious and approachable.

At times, in reading these poems, I was reminded of e e cummings and his "goat-footed balloon man whistling far and wee."  I was taken back to Ferlinghetti's "Coney Island of The Mind."  In this poet's Coney Island, I felt as if I had one foot firmly planted on the Cyclone and another next door on the Wonder Wheel.  It was quite a ride, and one I invite you to take.



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