Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If The Delta Was The Sea by Dick Lourie

If The Delta Was The Sea

by Dick Lourie

Hanging Loose Press, $18

Brooklyn, NY

Copyright © 2009 by Dick Lourie

ISBN 978-1-934909-02-7

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

Let me preface this review by saying I have never been a big fan of Dick Lourie’s poetry. There were some poems in Ghost Writer (Hanging Loose Press) that I liked a lot and some that I just liked. The totality was mostly unsatisfying.

Now Lourie has a new volume of poetry which, for me, would have been much better as a memoir or even a non-fiction travel piece. Yet as poetry, it provides insight into things few of us know about: the blues, the Mississippi Delta and Dick Lourie’s thoughts and experiences. Of particular interest is Lourie’s “eastern liberalism” which reflects his deep felt feelings for minorities and women.

For example in “Three Recent Trips To The Golden Past: East Village, Clarksdale, Athens” Lourie reminds the reader of what the “old south” was like as well as his humanitarian views about slaves and women:

“in Athens I walked through the Agora

where the ancients shopped gossiped argued sent

slaves on errands and male citizens met

for democratic decision making”

However, he also has keen sense of what it was to be Native American, particularly Chicksaw, and since that particular tribe were in the Delta and Memphis areas, back in the 1950s the Chicago White Sox had a minor league team in Memphis called the Chicksaws, Chicks for short. But rather than digress with my trivia here is more of Lourie who has explained how the Chicksaw were treated and what kind of reward they received. It comes from his poem “Rights”:

“...after the

Chicksaw wrote this to Andrew Jackson

in 1831 they were moved west –

in Mississippi the white pioneers

thrived with black slaves cleared swamps planted cotton”

or take this piece from “Dear Manager” in which Lourie discovers all is not what it appears to be:

after lunch with Andy Carr at the Rest

Haven my wife and I joke that there are

some topics we must manage to avoid

discussing with Andy his politics

being conservative and quite far from

our left end of the spectrum but then it

occurs to me that (as so often in

Clarksdale) the joke is on me...”

To find out what the joke on him is, you might want to read this poem.

Overall, I wish this were a prose travel piece, then it would have a wider circulation and provided non-poetry readers with some education they could probably use because as purveyor of Delta blues and Delta history, Lourie provides a good read.

*Zvi Sesling is the editor of the Muddy River Poetry Review

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