Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Review of UNEXPECTED SHINY THINGS, poems by Bruce Dethlefsen

UNEXPECTED SHINY THINGS, poems by Bruce Dethlefsen, Cowfeather Press, PO Box 620216, Middleton, WI 53562, cowfeatherpress.org, , 103 pages, $16, 2011

Review by Barbara Bialick, author of TIME LEAVES

A new book by the Poet Laureate of Wisconsin for 2011/2012 speaks with shininess of the plain-spoken yet profound things in life.

You can sense the influence of midwestern scenery in such poems as “Cross My Heart”: “I hope to die by water/not actually at the hands of water/but next to water…/ferns dripping with golden coffee sunlight/that would be fine/really that would be just fine”.

Or in the rhythmic poem “Hummingbirds”: “Hummingbirds know that we are dead/we mostly think the trees are dead/the trees think the water’s dead/…/the rocks think the mountains and the world are dead/the world thinks the universe is dead/the universe thinks god is dead/and god who knows what god thinks…”

The images of family in his work show up in such poems as “Superglue”: “Sometimes I superglue my catcher’s mitt/to my left hand two hours before sunset/and superglue my dad across the street/who smells like oiled leather and cigars/under a superglued sun in the kansas city sky…”

But family can also have tragedy. One of his sons died in 2010 in a moped accident. That feeling is reflected in “A Cell Phone Rings during Matthew Dickman’s Reading”:
“please answer that/no I’m serious/it may be the call/you’ve always waited for/the one that will/change your life forever…”

Bruce Dethlefsen was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1948 and moved to Wisconsin in 1966. He has written two previous chapbooks, A DECENT REED and SOMETHING NEAR THE DANCE FLOOR. His first full-length book was BREATHER (Fireweed Press 2009). It received an Outstanding Achievement Award in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Some of his poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s THE WRITER’S ALMANAC and YOUR DAILY POEM. A retired educator and public library director, he also performs with Bill Orth as OBVIOUS DOG on Cathryn Cofell’s CD LIP. Dethlefsen lives with his partner of twenty years, Sue Rose Allen in Westfield, Wisconsin

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