Sunday, March 11, 2012

Broken Borders Poems by John L. Holgerson

Broken Borders Poems

John L. Holgerson

Wasteland Press


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?



blood-smeared windows

that have looked out upon

every kind of cruelty and death





hunched over

bodies of

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

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