Andrew H. Oerke, international aid worker, world-wide resident and traveler, company president, Golden Gloves champ, football player, professor, dean, poet-in-residence, Korean War vet, Fulbright scholar, etc., etc., recently added two book of poetry to his collection of published works. His writing is as crowded, varied, deeply eclectic as his curriculum vitae. In San Miguel de Allende (2005), roughly a quarter of the poems explore the geography and culture of this municipality on the Mexican altiplano. The poem "Christmas, San Miguel de Allende" displays both his signature strengths-rich language like "Lintels of Stonehenge hacked from shadows,"as well as the occasional tendency to overwrite. "The church is buttressed by a burro/slumped against it" is a simple and lovely line, but is immediately followed (and subsequently swallowed) by the mystifying "and children spill wax/hunting for a pad for a riding shotgun bride." Suddenly there's too much, I want to say Stop. Let me enjoy what is sublime here. For much of his writing is indeed sublime. From the poem "Wings on Good Friday": "How did the butterfly slip its halter/fly with weightless Michael to harrow hell/And abolish purgatory forever." There is much fine, transcendentwork in this volume. "Hawk on the Roadside," originally published in the New Yorker, is truly a diamond-it is glittery, hard, and clean-cutting.
African Stilt Dancer (2006), also beautifully presented with striking cover art, takes us through all of Africa, to the north, into Egypt, along the Nile,on Safari with the Masai, into the grasslands, beside the nomads in thedesert,along side oases, through the Serengeti, past the Nile Crocodile, up to the Elephants of Murchison Park. One doesn't read but rather travels Oerke's writing. The sights are invariably believable and true, even the train in "Night Train to Kisumu" tells us "Might as well accept it;\there are boats, there are cars\but they're merely the means to an end,\an excursionwithout a style." So then, ride on Oerke's train-"Stretch it out as long as you can."
Mary Buchinger Bodwell, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of English Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Boston, MA Reviewer for Ibbetson Street Press