Sunday, July 13, 2008

Review: The Man in the Booth in the Midtown Tunnel

The Man In The Booth
In The Midtown Tunnel
By Doug Holder
ISBN 978-1-4357-1957-6
65 pages at 13.00 paperback
Cervena Barva Press
P.O. Box 440357
W. Somerville MA 02144-3222

Doug Holder’s poetry has been defined by a study of people in their native environment. Whether on the street, in a psychiatric ward, or in the cocoon of family, his canny eyes miss nothing. He passes no judgments, makes no assumptions about those who daily cross his path or reside in the recesses of memory. This book is a gentle record of human behavior, compassionate psalms for the unusual and the mundane activities that dance through his day.

Holder’s revelations include personal snapshots. Consider this excerpt from “I Saw Myself On The Dudley Bus That Day:”

Half light,
No hair.
A bus of exiles
Each mired
In their personal

“In The Twin Towers” is Holder’s take on a murder that occurred in the Cambridge MA projects decades ago. In this stunning poem, an elderly man tries to remember why he loved his wife, then murders her in the smothering heat of summer:

He thinks of her gnarled hands
The liver spots --
Musing how her ring held on
To the bony corpse of her finger.

Simply and powerfully, the poet epitomizes frail defiance in “Cambridge Mass: Two Old Women:”

Arm in arm
A tight embrace
Of frail appendages
Pushing each other
At no more
Than a snail’s pace.

Each morning
Refusing the pull
Of age’s inertia

“A Dream of Minnie Baum” is Holder’s recollection of his grandmother. The moment is perfectly captured:

I sit in the deep creases of her sundress,
A purple flourish of fabric flowers,
Stunned by the musty cabal of her perfume.
My head resting on her soft deflated breasts
She exchanges Yiddish for English with mother
Tit for tat.

In these poems, Holder’s words reflect the intimacy and loneliness of humanity. Words flow quietly but memorably on these pages. Highly recommended.

Review by Laurel Johnson * Laurel Johnson is a Book Reviewer for the Midwest Book Review.

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