Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Dogs of Brooklyn

Read 5/21/12 - 5/22/12
4 stars - Strongly recommended to NYCer's and Brooklynites,  wanna-be NYCer's and Brookylnites, and dog lovers
Pgs: 92 (w/ photos)
Publisher: Dog Poet Laureate Press (self-published)

What happens when a professional dog walker from Brooklyn starts writing poetry? Dogs of Brooklyn happens, that's what.

Susie DeFord, owner of Susie's Pet Care, lover and walker of dogs big and small, self published this collection of poetry in December 2011. Offering up a fresh perspective of city life, Susie documents her trials and tribulations with many fur-covered, tail-wagging canines (and some cats thrown in for good measure) while wandering the side streets and green parks of Brooklyn.

I discovered Susie and her poetry through various articles that started popping up in my twitter stream earlier in the year. Dogs was making quite the splash in the "indie" scene. She had been featured over at The Nervous Breakdown in an interesting interview conducted by a traditionally published friend of hers, Melissa Febos. The other, by GalleyCat, highlighted the intricacies of self publishing.

These articles, among others, prompted me to reach out to her and request a review copy. You guys should know by now that I have no shame.

The first thing that struck me upon receiving the book was its design, all bright orange with black trees and white lettering. It stands out above many of the other self published novels I have read and seen. The cover and quality of the binding and paper even rivals some of the small / indie presses I've reviewed.

Score one for Susie for not taking the cheap way out. The first thing to turn away a potential reader, especially for a work that has been self published, is a poorly designed book.

The second thing to turn a reader away from self-published work is poor editing. The concept of editing poetry is an unfamiliar one to me. To be honest, until recently, I had no idea that the content of poems were edited - I just assumed misspellings and bad punctuation were the only things that had a red pen taken to them. (I since have Ryan Bradley to thank for schooling me a bit on what poetry editing looks like.)

One flip through Dogs and you'll see that Susie formats her lines differently from poem to poem. Some are in paragraph form, some grouped in twos, others in threes. Her sentences keep your eyes moving. Her poems tell stories of places marked (or made magic) by the dog she has with her at that moment. She pulls you along... between tall buildings and past local bakeries, from home to home as she dog-sits, out into the cold and the rain and the sunshine. Her poems write us through a year's worth of Brooklyn, in and out of puppy love, from the discovery of new and homeless four legged friends to the death of the ones who have stolen her heart.

Dogs of Brooklyn delivers on all levels. Susie writes to the every-man, her poems are accessible. This is a collection of poetry that city dwellers and animal lovers will definitely appreciate - she's captured the animal essence hidden within a very human world. And manages to make the animals more human, for a time...

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