Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bird Effort by Ronald Baatz

Bird Effort by Ronald Baatz, Kamini Press (Sweden and Greece)

By Barbara Bialick

When turning to read Ronald Baatz’ new chapbook, BIRD EFFORT, first you note it’s undersized with a handsome bird watercolor cover and some 24 pages of minimalist poems without much punctuation by an experienced poet. Will it be easy to read, you wonder, but no, the book is very deeply written about death as visualized through nature imagery, particularly of birds…

But who is the poem’s persona speaking to? That remains a mystery, though now and again he’ll mention either the presence of or a memory of his mother, his dead father, old girlfriends, his three-legged dog, a dead pet canary, and yes, the lord. There in the foothills of the Catskills in New York, nature and the seasons are always present, ultimately leading him to conclude “how soft my ashes will be…” He maintains sadness throughout, wishing he could be as happy as his dog “just being let in”…

You wonder who else is there because the goal or theme of the book is expressed early:
“You sing to the bird in me/I sing to the bird in you/an effort/we love to face/each dawn.”
With that line’s staccato rhythm, he also suggests a pace like bird songs.

“If time had a shadow…,” he says, “It’d be a swiftness having/no nest to return to”.
“enough/sleep is so difficult/now dreams of my dead father/have come to/spend the winter/Oh lord, let me stay drunk somehow/without all this drinking…”

The life in the poems is often cold to him. There are “crows in fog-/their backs turned to me/ignoring me”; and “winter’s white shoulders--just how beautiful and cold/they really are.” Or his old three-legged dog ”chasing after/a winter sun/that’s cold and/hobbling on one leg”.

To go on pulling beautiful quotes would be unfair to the author and reader. Readers there certainly should be. It’s a nice pocket-size book to carry with you on a nature walk when you might wish to ponder poems about the cruelty of death in the elegance of nature. By all means read them out loud…

By Barbara Bialick, author of Time Leaves (Ibbetson Street Press)

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