Saturday, May 29, 2010

Them: Poems from 1999-2002

Read 5/24/10 - 5/29/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with author/genre

This collection of poems was mailed to me by Twenty Three Books Press. I met the publisher at Baltimore's CityLit Festival back in April and was interested to take a peek at what he carried.

The author, Omar Shapli has written, directed, and acted in numerous plays in Chicago and New York, and has attempted to preserve his sanity by writing poetry - as per his bio on Twenty Three books.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for poetry. It can be tender, forceful, confusing, full of rage - no matter what emotion it evokes, it is beautiful, and sparse, and creative.

Though I admit to struggling with some of the turmoil and political agendas mentioned in Shapli's work, I definitely felt the pull of his more personal poems.

Here are my interpretations of the ones that tugged the hardest:

Downed Tree on the Taconic - he writes about a tree that lies across the highway, blocking people from passing. Little by little, strangers drive up to it, dialing cell phones, sitting in their cars, eventually congregating outside around it's trunk. Men attempt to move it, rolling up their sleeves, when suddenly the tow truck arrives to free them.

I was touched by the calm and acceptance his characters felt when faced with obstruction. Were they late to a meeting? Was dinner getting cold? Were they running away from something? We will never know. They were together for those few moments, created a tiny community in those minutes they spent together, and then went on their separate ways, never to met again.

Global Positioning - A short 9 lines that sum up our human existence quite neatly. We are never content with where we are, always trying to get to someplace else.

It can apply to any part of our lives. Whether it be physical: where I live or where I work, what I own, what I am doing. Whether it be spiritual: who I am as a person, where I wanted to be at this point in my life. Financial: The money I make, the money I owe. Or even Love: who I am with, who I surround myself with.

Humiliation - When a man attempts to tip his waiter, who returns the money because he is not who the man thinks he is, we get lost in his confusing train of thought.

Tillinghast in a Tizzy - I clung onto these lines "We are fed by corruption/ led by the underbelly/ and ruled by thugs".

Stain - A simple coffee stain gets turned into something that was destined to happen, destined from the moment of the big bang and the creation of earth.

I liked this one because it just came across as this long exasperated mental sigh. A throwing up of the hands to something bigger than us, a bowing down to the uncontrollable elements, to the powers that be.

By the Brook:Late Summer - A man leaves his house to trim the bushes, and becomes distracted when he notices a tiny hole dug into the dirt beneath his feet. We take a peek inside his head, see his thoughts unravelling, until he snaps back to the moment and remembers why he went outside.

McGinley's Pocket Lexicon - These are alphabetical one line quips and analogies that were quite humorous. The ones I liked best: "Accessible: what you think might be graspable even by me." "Adventure is disaster modified". Clothing: Mousehole with mobility". "Measured response: killing my enemy just a little bit".

While I wasn't always able to grasp his meaning, these jumped off of the page and screamed out to me. I believe his collection contains a little something for everyone.

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