Saturday, June 28, 2008
Strange News (poems)
by Lawrence Kessenich
Pudding House Chapbook Series
© 2008 $10.00
“Strange News” by Lawrence Kessenich takes news factoids to a place of
metaphor that borderlines on urban legend while elaborating on
poetic editorialization. The language is familiar, the images well crafted.
Kessenich places his personal stamp on current and obscure stories such as
Japanese children born in Myanmar, David Belasco’s infamous theater-apartment,
and an Oregon woman arrested for dialing 911 and asking for the cutest cop.
These snippets supply the nub which delivers the poem, often presented
in dramatic monologue.
In Slow Burn, epigram: “Cook pleads guilty in Bed and Breakfast killing spree” -
the water boils for a love-struck B&B cook/owner who is seduced by a girl
named Lila, “ . . . the coquette of my graduate/ writing class, . . .
head full of impossible dreams . . .”
And after Lila lounging around in the garden sipping iced coffee and swimming
naked in the quarry, periodically “screwing” the male guests, the speaker,
(who, is being very much victimized) realizes that she knows she has him,
“ . . . wrapped around her/ little finger”.
Sticking to the title, the speaker finds a revolver and concludes:
“I liked / the way it made me feel/ as if I were a man again.”
Aside from the humorous, Kessenich maneuvers into darker thought-streams.
His Poem “Death Wish” is a flat-out, telling-it-like-it-is catalog of world images,
“twisted streets of Baghdad” and suicide bombers blooming “Bloody roses . . .”.
Images of a world, Kessenich says, we “pretend does not exist . . .”
The final lines portray in words a gesture of hands being thrown up in the air:
“Perhaps it’s time
to sweep the shards of broken
test tubes from the laboratory
table, watch them glitter through
the air like falling stars
as we take our dying breaths.”
The sparseness of language in “Strange News” might appear basic or half-trying,
even exhibiting the occasional cliche “Took the wind out of her sails”, for example,
but what’s being presented in this work is an opulence of voice, culled from
news stories that, at times, are not-so-poetic, then reinvented into gems.
“The Need to Believe” uncovers a verity never found on the front page, but always
stirring in the heart:
“We’d love to believe we’re special
that out tiny lives impress the earth.
But it has seen trees that live
for centuries, hidden places
we will never see, forgets us
as quickly as raindrops
evaporating on hot stone.”
(Take that, Paris Hilton, Bill Gates, Steve DeOssie Etc. . . .)
Finally, the ending poem entitled “Play On” offers a testament to persistence.
Each stanza begins with the refrain “After it’s all over”, suggesting any
catastrophic event of the reader’s choosing.
“After it’s all over
the Indian will dig up
a beaded leather bag
buried in a mountain
pull out a smooth wooden
flute his grandfather carved
and wail his people’s
pain into the sky.”
Mike Amado is a reviewer for Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
and is an Associate News Staff & Roadpoet eMagazine book and music reviewer.
Two books are slated for release in 2008, “Stunted Inner Child Shot the T.V.”
(Cervena Barva Press), and “Rebuilding the Pyramids” (Ibbetson Street Press