Monday, July 22, 2013

He Looked Beyond My Faults And Saw My Needs By Leonard Gontarek

He Looked Beyond My Faults

And Saw My Needs

By Leonard Gontarek

Hanging Loose Press

Brooklyn, New York

ISBN: 978-1-934909-31-7

88 Pages


Review by Dennis Daly

Lucifer, God’s favorite, now fallen, angel graciously invites us into his looking glass world made up of perfumes, strange sex, strong drink, idols, and impending death. He does this through the imagistic poetry of Leonard Gontarek. Oh wait, I have this backwards. Leonard Gontarek invites us into his emotionally charged and arty version of hell on earth. The poet does this through Lucifer’s angelic, albeit horny, persona. Hmmm… perhaps I had it right the first time.

Although the movement in these poems is linear, the interjection of dreamlike images and surreal logic beckons the reader elsewhere and leads him into cul de sacs, detours, and neighborhoods off the beaten road.

In Gontarek’s opening poem entitled Autumn Sonata the poet considers Jackson Pollock, a fallen angel if ever there was a fallen angel. According to the poet Pollock saw the world as a burning cruise ship. Sounds about right! Pollock’s work also engendered a strange calm into some of his most chaotic compositions. Gontarek sees equivalent natural landscapes, where shadows deepen on autumn leaves. The poet (or is it Lucifer) is onto something here. He cautions rightly against cavorting with the darker powers. Gontarek concludes with some pretty intriguing lines,

Pollock once sat in a field with an elixir,

after selling his soul to the devil.

A mixture of whiskey and dusk.

It looked like the glass was frothing,

but it was ordinary mist.

Recently I looked at a Pollock painting

which, always sacred to me,

looked like a bunch of paint piled on a canvas.

One of the saddest afternoons.

Even angels walking the earth have second thoughts about their nature and their choices. Gontarek details his misgivings after twenty-five years of writing poetry in Hymn, a short poem, which makes the point wittily. The poet says,

I am stepping out, just now, for stamps.

Terrorists pull up in a silver Mercedes—

the newer, American model—spray Uzis in my direction.

I fall to the ground, riddled with doubt.

I bet that there are quite a few poets out there that can identify with those lines.

A little bit of hell on earth can be a good thing. For instance the poet finds God or at least religion between Little Pete’s Diner and the windy corner of Pine and Quince. Nearby hunger spurs patrons into the inferno. Gontarek lovingly concludes,

…I undo your hair. Here the analogy breaks down.

The line is long at Dante’s Ribs. The leaves exquisite, combust.

A fly lands on the heart. Evening follows.

The poet-angel penning these poems contents himself with love and mysteries rather than seeking meaning in life. He interchanges dreams with reality on a whim or rather as part of his artistic makeup. There’s little sentimentality here. Here’s how he puts it,

…God fingers us, all night long.

Cars skirl the wet streets. Brilliant red cars.

Leaves don’t so much fall, as

are dumped into wet needles.

Difficult to tell dream from the other thing.

Inhabit this world when I damn well feel like it.

Compassion is not a requirement.

Gontarek’s poem Loop is a wonderful continuum of imagery praising the seekers of worldly knowledge and the limits of that same knowledge (think Garden of Eden Tree of Knowledge). The poem opens this way,

The trees are infinite. A particle of bird sits on a branch.

The clouds, scum-caked bottoms of boats.

Heart, dog on a 20-foot leash, awake and restless, goes so far.

Praise, infinite. The trees have made us for themselves.

I want to know death, smear of red, understand.

Anonymity can be a necessity in the environs of hell, especially for an angel, fallen or not. Gontarek sets his poem The Summer in a strip joint. The poet’s persona explains,

Nothing to do, but finish

my Absolut, keep to myself.

Take in a show. Nightclub

gone to seed. Erotic act:

Leda And The Swan. Leda

of course, a woman. The swan,

not necessarily a man.

Try not to look at the others,

On the way in, and out.

The poem entitled Email is made up of ten short erotic fragments of varying intensity, some balanced with a touch of melancholy. The theme seems to be the ambiguity (hell, the excitement) that exists in Gontarek’s infernal regions. Consider this one fragment,

Afterward, I go to hell like a bullet from a sad man.

Beautiful nude women, trees, along the way.

Take off my clothes, you said, so they tear.

Sometimes conferring with fellow angels only confuses things, especially while intoxicated. The poem Notebook V expresses some of the poet’s exasperation. Here’s how the poem opens,

The angel asks if we have thought things over. Close, her perfume on you.

God watches on TV.

Karma ran over my dogma.

Vodka, cocaine, Gap cologne cocktail.

Do I know what I mean? My sister in any windy

Garden, cupping a praying mantis like a green flame.

The Buddha hears all prayers with his big ears. buddha error.

Goddamn Sacre Coeur is everywhere.

And later in the same poem you get this riveting and spot on line,

I wait for the rusty factory gate to open. Drinking in dawn, pitching woo

to archangels.

Artistry brings intensity and forbidden knowledge. And with that seems to come a sense of surveillance. The poet as fallen angel describes the sensation as follows,

… A twig snap, just as expected.

A voice, stern and fatherly, hushes the extras, or has he just imagined it.

Moon, cylindrical-shaped in pond. Everything heightened in crosshairs of God.

Brave fire and brimstone if you must, but buy this book. Leonard Gontarek is a heluva poet.


  1. Dennis -- I address you from the monastic cell of this small white space which no one ever visits, to say that, even as I pray for the retrieval of your soul from dark forces, I applaud the teasing wonder of implicit blasphemy in the language you lay on the blasphemous work at hand,
    which does indeed sound as attractive as your words suggest it to be.
    Short version: Good review man!