Oct '02 [Home]

Reviews by Tim Scannell

Joshua Bodwell's Are You Just Getting Up?
Lori Jakiela's The Regulars
Michael Kriesel's Matter Ballet

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Are You Just Getting Up? by Joshua Bodwell
(Liquid Paper, POB 4937; Austin, TX 78765; 28pp.; $5.00; 2001)

Set on coastal Maine, for nearly a score of poems and nine short-short stories (some only a paragraph in length), the usual setting ('mindscape' actually) are the rooms of a house; not farther than the back yard, and certainly never out to sea, because what satiates most is quiet, even disappearance altogether into this peaceful surround:

We went down to the water
today and I let it flow into me.
In and through and out,
back to its brimming beauty.

Or in the poem, "Under the Sun,"

I want to
stand in the
close my eyes
and let her
walk right
through me.

Clearly, paradise is wholly where the narrator is:  no need for music/TV; road, strip mall, city or any other upsetting hub-bub from the panoply of modernity.

Not being disturbed informs the characters of the short stories as well. In one, a woman uses a butter knife to jimmy the lock at a summer cottage (owners absent). She longs for some quiet hours on their living room couch— that's all! In another, two friends have weekend breakfasts together. One man always hears the week's sins of the other and, while not saying so, hates it. The narrator says, "I will never forgive you for making me feel like a priest. Never."

In the longest story, 64-year-old Molly begins a quiet morning. She notices neighbors across the street talking to visiting friends and enjoys imagining their conversation. They all go inside. Molly becomes obsessed to find an old pair of binoculars so that she might continue to enjoy what she imagines them saying. The bulk of the story involves Molly ransacking every single room, nook and cranny, attic and basement trying to find those binoculars. That evening her husband comes home, observes chaos (thinks burglar, murder), but finds his wife furiously tearing apart the very last corner of the basement. Joshua Bodwell proves his point in this hilarious (yet frightening tale):  Lest you court disaster, till your own garden. Recommended.

~ . ~

The Regulars by Lori Jakiela
(Liquid Paper, POB 4937; Austin, TX 78765; 36pp.; $5.00; 2001)

Sixteen narrative poems and two short-short stories, but most of the material is boring, passé, simpleminded feminist rhetoric, each male character a Big Bad Wolf and each female character a Little Princess Victim. In one poem, a waitress in Pittsburgh can't seem to get away from an abusive husband. In another, a woman from a broken marriage sets up a "New Age bookstore" in Butler, Pennsylvania and is a "psychic spiritual counselor," but "goes on sobbing" about her failed life throughout the "session." In both pieces of prose, the narrator has been a "flight attendant for years, and am used to being touched like this" [a man grabbed her leg]. Forget the other story—about a diseased man aboard the plane. Ho-hum stuff.

Yet, buried in the middle of the chapbook are three gems, childhood poems before a tedious feminist ideology throttled this poet's genuine potential (which she should assiduously develop!) A vignette of her Polish father, machinist for Westinghouse; her father, in another poem, feeding sparrows and robins with torn loaves of fresh bread; and finally, a remembrance of her grandmother who "would take rags / and tie hot water bottles to her knees." Make it a point to send a dollar to Liquid Paper Press, asking for photocopies of the childhood poems only.

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Matter Ballet by Michael Kriesel
(MuscleHead, 3700 County Route 24, Russell, NY 13684; 38pp.; $4.00; 2001).

Here in his fifth chapbook, the poet stays with short, contemplative poems about nature (neither metaphysical nor pantheistic): "Forty and it's / not about me / anymore…[it's] the revolution flowers / stage without us / every spring…". Kriesel has ever been plain:  "…all I want / to be when I grow up // is left alone"; solitariness then, and a quiet elation in noticing nature's little "miracles," as in "Cabbage Moths" ("Walking / past the garden // startled / by confetti // rising up.") or in a poem about twilight ("Opening / another can // I park & / let the // engine block / tick down // crickets chip / away the light&3133;"). Such detachment does not fit all tastes, but there is refreshment in this poet's simplicity and steadfastness.

A really interesting bonus in Matter Ballet are twenty full-page illustrations by Claudio Parentela (ubiquitous in the small press). The usual frenzy of his bold black/white drawings are calmer here—befitting Kriesel's subjects—extremely complementary, in fact, to the writer's autumn leaf, starry sky, or "Tossing popcorn / on the snow // waiting for / red squirrels // praying for / more than myself." This chapbook is a compliment to both the ruminativeness of the poet and the energetic style of the artist. Recommended.