Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain": Review by Laurel Johnson

Laurel Johnson reviews are new to our blog. Laurel was formerly a reviewer for Pedestal and now is a reviewer for the Midwest Book Review, as well as other magazines. She tells me this review will appear in the Midwest Review.

No One Dies at the Au Bon Pain
By Doug Holder
ISBN 978-1-934513-00-2
28 page chapbook at $8
P.O. Box 441429
Somerville MA 02144

Doug Holder is founder of Ibbetson Street Press, small press activist, champion of unknown poets, and a poet himself. He wears his many hats with panache. In this chapbook he shares a sense of longing for what was and a sometimes reluctant acceptance of what is: Humans are vulnerable, and mortal.

Holder’s thoughts are expressed with a simple power. These excerpts from “Am I a Man of Bone or Flesh?” reflect that power. How does the world see him?

Can you still
feel my supple flesh,
like a fruit’s
skin blushing
with ripeness?

…still I am more
than brittle bone,
the cold
unfeeling face
of glacial stone.

Consider the first verse of “Why Did He Leave Her” to understand how a skillful poet puts words together:

Because of the terminal
certainty of the itinerary --
his course redlined
with an actuary’s passionless
a replay of his father’s descent.

“Glaucoma” is my sentimental favorite, perhaps because the experience is all too familiar. I quote this poem in its entirety because a poet sees with more than just his eyes:

And how those angelic halos
around the streetlights
to an homage of
nefarious intent.

The pressure
the threat
and those images
of her smile,

the Maine coast,
the surf jumping
the rocks
as its mussels maintain
a tight grip.

And I don’t see
in wanton gulps
but I sip

I sip.

Holder’s work here is rich with textual imagery. A stranger’s laugh becomes an “astringent mixture of the hilarious and sinister.” Rain is a “spectral tapping on the roof.” These are words of a master poet who sees the world clearly and shares that vision generously with readers.

Review by Laurel Johnson

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