Sunday, March 11, 2012
Broken Borders Poems
John L. Holgerson
Review by Rene Schwiesow
“Broken Borders Poems” is internationally inspired. The poems included were written in the United States, London, Athens, and on the Greek Islands of Hydra and Rhodes. Some of them, Holgerson says, were “born in one country, grew up in a second and found maturity in a third.”
In the opening poem Holgerson tells his reader
. . .you will dance.
Across the room, in the streets,
you glide. An escaped kite
rising on crescendo currents,
tugging, slave to string of song.
Poetry does allow us to soar like a kite, on the air flow on the words and images that carry us high above the landscape. We rise on that crescendo with the beauty, dip with the melancholy and find freedom in the expansion of metaphor. We are, however, always tethered to the reality that sometimes poetry is just not so pretty. Holgerson gives fair warning to the unwary pedestrian who may be observed without their knowledge:
Do not go so unarmed
among the smiling hunters
Do not listen
to the clever lures
whispered from behind. . .
Do not trust us
to repair your heart
We will shackle it
with chains of verse
Holgerson writes about relationship, with women, with his children, and with a young man on death row in “To a Dying Man on his Birthday,” where he questions the death penalty.
A hell of a system, isn’t it?
You kill. We kill.
And the only one
who really benefits
is the undertaker.
Talk about grounding us in reality. Holgerson swings from the electric chair to the glories of war. Yes you should be reading glories as sarcasm. How glorious is war?
that have looked out upon
every kind of cruelty and death
American men and boys
Poetry will bring you to contemplation; John Holgerson’s words certainly offer us much to consider, often through shudders. He ends the book with the title poem, “Broken Borders,” which is a villanelle. It is not often that we are treated to form poetry in a chapbook. I will leave you with the final couplet:
I’ve broken all the borders hindering my advance
Listening to the music, relearning how to dance.
Rene Schwiesow is co-host of the wildly popular South Shore Venue, Poetry: The Art of Words. She writes a monthly arts column for The Old Colony Memorial in Plymouth, MA and earns her living working with autistic children and running a private hypnosis/wellness practice