Sunday, May 26, 2013

Review of Sweet Spot by Kenneth Lee

Review of Sweet Spot, Poems by Kenneth Lee, Antrim House, 21 Goodrich Road, Simsbury, CT 06070,, 2012, 78 pages, $17

By Barbara Bialick

Dr. Kenneth Lee, a pathologist in Boston at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, has a keen eye for description in his book of slices of his life, from childhood to the present.

The sweet spot of a baseball bat is the perfect way to hit the ball, and so in this collection he shows how to stay in the game.

He takes us from his youth in Teaneck, New Jersey, through his fascinating stint as an air force pilot in Viet Nam to a busy life as a doctor, father, observer, and so on. The first half of the book is one well-crafted poem after another. However, as it travels through the years, I couldn’t concentrate on the growing examination of his many views of his life, often in an almost matter of fact way.

Early in the collection, he records his first trip to his grandfather’s watch shop. He is impressed by the way his grandfather referred to the watches as “movements”. This interest in the elegant fascination in his work carries him through his own profession. Lee knows he is able to save lives in a somewhat similar view of the minute human material he sees on his pathology slides. “I process them/according to established protocol:/a tiny foot, a hand/suspended in the purple slush,/ placental villi/lovely/all those once-ardent strivings/waving like anemones/anxious that I detect/that they had come at least this far.” (“Protocol”)

At a family reunion in New Jersey, near the end of the book, “Jersey Shore Reunion”, he looks back on it all. On the beach he relates his thoughts: “The droning rollers, ghostly foam/I think of how much water/the sea has thrown on its sloping shoulders/since I walked here last, a child on vacation./I turn, the far-off beach house lights,/Mars, the austere moon, indifferent stars.” Likewise the doctor has taken a lot of responsibility onto his own shoulders…

Kenneth Lee is the co-author of a popular textbook, with Christopher Crum, Diagnostic and Gynecologic and Obstetric Pathology. He has also published in many well-respected literary and other journals including Chest, Nimrod, Poetry East, Comstock Review, The Lyric, and Harp Strings Poetry Journal. Some of the poems in the book were published in an earlier poetry chapbook, Cleaning the Attic. He lives with his wife, Kathleen, in Boston, Massachusetts.

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