Saturday, June 28, 2008

Strange News (poems) by Lawrence Kessenich

Strange News (poems)

by Lawrence Kessenich

Pudding House Chapbook Series

ISBN 1-58998-6690-5

© 2008 $10.00

“Strange News” by Lawrence Kessenich takes news factoids to a place of

metaphor that borderlines on urban legend while elaborating on

poetic editorialization. The language is familiar, the images well crafted.

Kessenich places his personal stamp on current and obscure stories such as

Japanese children born in Myanmar, David Belasco’s infamous theater-apartment,

and an Oregon woman arrested for dialing 911 and asking for the cutest cop.

These snippets supply the nub which delivers the poem, often presented

in dramatic monologue.

In Slow Burn, epigram: “Cook pleads guilty in Bed and Breakfast killing spree” -

the water boils for a love-struck B&B cook/owner who is seduced by a girl

named Lila, “ . . . the coquette of my graduate/ writing class, . . .

head full of impossible dreams . . .”

And after Lila lounging around in the garden sipping iced coffee and swimming

naked in the quarry, periodically “screwing” the male guests, the speaker,

(who, is being very much victimized) realizes that she knows she has him,

“ . . . wrapped around her/ little finger”.

Sticking to the title, the speaker finds a revolver and concludes:

“I liked / the way it made me feel/ as if I were a man again.”

Aside from the humorous, Kessenich maneuvers into darker thought-streams.

His Poem “Death Wish” is a flat-out, telling-it-like-it-is catalog of world images,

“twisted streets of Baghdad” and suicide bombers blooming “Bloody roses . . .”.

Images of a world, Kessenich says, we “pretend does not exist . . .”

The final lines portray in words a gesture of hands being thrown up in the air:

“Perhaps it’s time

to sweep the shards of broken

test tubes from the laboratory

table, watch them glitter through

the air like falling stars

as we take our dying breaths.”

The sparseness of language in “Strange News” might appear basic or half-trying,

even exhibiting the occasional cliche “Took the wind out of her sails”, for example,

but what’s being presented in this work is an opulence of voice, culled from

news stories that, at times, are not-so-poetic, then reinvented into gems.

“The Need to Believe” uncovers a verity never found on the front page, but always

stirring in the heart:

“We’d love to believe we’re special

that out tiny lives impress the earth.

But it has seen trees that live

for centuries, hidden places

we will never see, forgets us

as quickly as raindrops

evaporating on hot stone.”

(Take that, Paris Hilton, Bill Gates, Steve DeOssie Etc. . . .)

Finally, the ending poem entitled “Play On” offers a testament to persistence.

Each stanza begins with the refrain “After it’s all over”, suggesting any

catastrophic event of the reader’s choosing.

“After it’s all over

the Indian will dig up

a beaded leather bag

buried in a mountain

pull out a smooth wooden

flute his grandfather carved

and wail his people’s

pain into the sky.”

Mike Amado is a reviewer for Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene

and is an Associate News Staff & Roadpoet eMagazine book and music reviewer.

Two books are slated for release in 2008, “Stunted Inner Child Shot the T.V.”

(Cervena Barva Press), and “Rebuilding the Pyramids” (Ibbetson Street Press

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