Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Little Things by Harry Smith

Little Things
Harry Smith
Presa :S: Press
2009 $13.95
ISBN 978-0-9800081-3-5

the opening poem is a killer story, it reads like a thriller with plot, tension and sympathy, as do all seven poems in the first section, Modern Ballads:

“…He started in on me.
I blocked his first three punches. A sideways bear
swipe knocked me down.
-’Please, Mister, lay off me. I won’t take no more.’
-I’ll break your neck.
He launched himself straight down on me and he
landed on my knife…”

my only criticism is I think the first section might work better as the last section because it feels so complete. it becomes an effort to get into the next set of poems after reading the intensity of those first ones. ending with the ballads seems a better evolution. Smith continues in a biographical vein:

“when Beethoven intoned, “must it be?”
the words inscribed above his quartet notes,
he meant that resoundingly
abysmal, simple question. smitten motes
of dancing dust…”

Smith freely plays with form in most of the poems and he lets us know in his poem, ‘a farewell to Ammons’:

“…style, you know, arbitrary one line spaces inserted, as
above, irregular uncontained couplets, line

breaks like this, floated jot jot jottings, his typical
stuff: this one about urine, his creatinine test…”

with a full range of forms, Smith gives us haiku-like glimpses through the nature of his experiences and often reminiscent of Nurada’s questions:

“is it a bad thing
to see everything as if
for the last time”

He is a story teller poet with an emphasis on small personal truths. the lives some people live effect our need to tell. “a measure of merit, your friends will find they keep the ideal climate of you mind.”

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Ibbetson Street Press
Poetry Editor
Wilderness House Literary Review

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