Monday, December 03, 2012

Time On Its Own By Kenneth Frost

Time On Its Own By Kenneth Frost
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
Charlotte, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-1-59948-404-4
50 Pages
Review by Dennis Daly

Kenneth Frost writes poems with imagery that touches our nerve ends directly and demands our immediate response. His surreal juxtapositions are delivered for the most part with a slow jazzy beat. There is a poem for everyone here. Frost’s subjects range from landscapes to metaphysics, from spiders to theology. I read the last poem in the book first and I’m glad I did. It seems to set everything else up. I think it comes very very close to, in fact I think it caresses the relationship-conundrum between artist and art. Since this is a posthumous collection and the poem is short, I’ll quote it in its entirety. It’s called Suddenly and here it is,

there you are
in the
of a dream.

Who shall I
tell them
you are
with your
long hair,
embodied light?

The poet’s question in the second stanza boasts of creative power and intimates a plethora of alternatives, yet the poem’s feel is weightless and lovely.

The longest poem in the book entitled The Figure Skater delivers enough gravitas to anchor the collection. Frost magically turns a female skater into a creator of universes and an archive of memories. The poem begins with an unstoppable locomotive barreling down the tracks toward the proverbial innocent maiden bound to the tracks by some dastardly evil doer. It’s the train’s headlight that the poet finally focuses on and merges into the athletic performance. The weight of the skater’s momentum changes into pure energy and flashes out little zodiacs. The next movement of the poem crests with a Jesuitical question and then enters Oklahoma in the thirties. Sound a bit strange? Here it is,

…how many angels
On the steel-tipped
Of her skate-blades
While her esprit woos
The fortune
A dust bowl
In the whirlwinds
Till a star leaps
Out of the coils
Of gravity.

The poem ends with the skater “escapading” and scattering apparitions like mercury.  I like the poet’s use of the word escapade (think ice capades) and the hint of danger it introduces.

The poem Buddy Rich on the Drums conjures up a more up tempo beat as it should. Frost pieces together one inspired image after another. He has a personified heart taking dictation from thunderstorms. Those same thunderstorms crumble static in a god’s throat. The poem ends in a holy froth mimicking that fiery drummer perfectly. Here’s the last stanza,

whipping his head
so fast his tongue
stutters his own
drumsticks to point
backward and gulp
the lost divine.

Another poem that deals with the nature of music is He Floats out. To Frost the artist-musician literally becomes his notes and he seeds the environs around him with apparitions. Listen,

… the rooms
around him
and a strange tree
of dreams
takes root
on every

Frost’s title poem, Time On Its Own, drifts through the imagination with mystery and speculation. The poet seems to be in a competition of sorts with an omnipotent and undeterred adversary. The poet searches for himself in the universe and Time also searches for him, sniffing him out from under the world’s detritus. In the penultimate stanza the poet makes an interesting argument concerning risk taking that I found myself nodding to in appreciation. The poet says,

Somewhere beyond
my centipede of echoes
someone insists, “Climb higher, a circus dive
will pull along
cold feet.”  

The poem Girl in a Singles Bar looks through a glass of scotch darkly and perceptively. Frost’s protagonist girl sees her life through a lens of despair and regret. She wants out. An advertisement poster offers a jet plane, which captures her imagination. But reality intrudes and with it comes a heartfelt crescendo of regret. It ends this way,

I put my glass
Against the wall
To bug this ark,
“What have we done,
What have we done
To one another?” 

Year ago I read The Interlopers, a short story by Saki, and liked it very much. Frost’s poem Closing In somehow brought back that memory with its own mesmerizing rendition of the same terrifying image. Saki never actually describes his wolves, whereas Frost draws you inside their killer eyes, through dreamlike tunnels into their essential nature. Of course the poem is about something else—the nature of memory. It worked for me. The poem concludes,

wolves’ eyes draw
their prayerbeads
through whispers
their memories

Well done. And efficacious as hell!  


  1. Anonymous11:57 AM

    This is just beautiful; it does justice to the book!


  2. How wonderful to see poetry live such an esteemed life in today's 120 character world. Fantastic book and fantastic write-up.