Saturday, October 05, 2013

The Hotel Oneira by August Kleinzahler


The Hotel Oneira
August Kleinzahler
Farrar Strauss Giroux
New York, NY
© Copyright 2013 by August Kleinzahler
Hardbound, $24, 89 pages

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

What makes a poet memorable to me is the ability to make me sit up and feel a wow moment, an idea, a poetic line or a usage of words that says to me this poet is unique.
August Kleinzahler is that kind of poet.  In three previous poetry volumes of his that I have read I have had those moments when I get excited about what I am reading.

In his latest book Kleinzahler produces many wow moments for me.  Take for example
A History of Western Music: Chapter 63:

They follow you around the store, these power ballads,
you and the women with their shopping carts filled with eggs,
cookies, 90 fl. oz. containers of anti-bacterial dishwashing liquid,
buffeting you sideways like a punishing wind.

You stand, almost hypnotized, as the rosticceria counter
staring at the braised lamb shanks, the patterns
those tiny, coagulated rivulets of fat make,
both knees about to go out from under you.

So many images in the supermarket.  We have all experienced these moments, though I must admit I have never spent much time looking at coagulated rivulets of fat, though I have been buffeted sideways like a punishing wind.   This has been particularly true in a Whole Foods where they seem to push the carts the way they drive their cars—blindly and with abandon.  

Then there is this scene from Hollyhocks In The Fog in which a reader who has spent time at a seaside shore might relate:

Every evening smoke blows in from the sea, sea smoke, ghost vapor
of lost frigates, sunken destroyers
It hangs over the eucalyptus grove,
cancels the hills,
curls around garbage outside the lesbian bar.

Kleinzahler is a favorite because not only do the images come with super glue so they stick in your mind and warp your senses, but because the poems themselves are written to make you reread and thoroughly enjoy them.

And there are the memorable lines like: my name is on everyone’s lips:/-August, they say,/with resignation and dismay, pulling up their collars against the wind. 

Or:  Two turkey vultures, wings unfurled like spinnakers,/dry and groom themselves,

Hotel Oneira is out this week by the author of nine books of poetry, winner of the  2004 Griffin International Poetry Prize for The Strange Hours Travelers Keep and the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Sleeping It Off In Rapid City.

There is much to discover in Kleinzahler’s poetry: individual lines, couplets and whole poems.   It is highly recommended.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer for Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and  Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Publisher, Muddy River Books
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthologies 7& 8

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