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  • By Twin Creeks Press
    Sep 26, 2010
    I've always enjoyed Dennis Donham's writings. They seem on the surface to be very relaxing, but upon further consideration their complexity practically explodes in geometric proportions. His subject matter is always strongly rooted in real life, and that is where so much of the charm of his poems is found. Yet, as I said, there's always this razor's edge that the poem seems to balance on and one is never sure if the poem will stay on that edge or be sliced in two or fall to one side or the other. Take the poem "highway death." It is written as a 14-syllable "zen byte" - even though I think of them more as American Haiku. The formal haiku pattern is not followed precisely, but few Haiku written in English do. Yet the reader is exposed to the Haiku's perplexing and somewhat disturbing juxtaposition - in this case of regular "roadside litter" like pop cans and burger wrappers against the "senseless debris" of a tragic automobile accident. The... More > product of the trivial act of tossing litter out the window of a car is held up against the stark reality of a moment of failure of machine or of man that results in death. The last two lines are equally perplexing and paradoxical. First he establishes an individual whose life met its end. But no one knows or can know who this person was. But the person is acutely an "individual" who possessed a life, who lived in time, who must have had a name even though we don't know it. The poet emphasizes this with the unusual spelling "who's" instead of whose. Yet "who's" more emphatically calls out the identity of an individual in the possessive case - that there was an individual who had life who had time, but now that is done and over, and ironically "who's time it was" is not a sign of life and opportunity but of death and mortality. "Whose time was it to die?" is the existential question that is really raised here all wrapped up in the speculation of what life and reality are. In Donham's poems things never are what they seem. In "park stroller" the juxtaposition (or "kireji") is between young woman and miniature greyhound. Now the thing I find very intriguing is the ambiguity in how this is to be read. Is the young woman walking a dog, or is the woman walking and looking like a miniature greyhound in her walking? In the haiku either one is possible, since the additional words that would normally be planted in the description to make it clear are intentionally left out and therefore cause the ambiguity, so that we really have to consider both possibilities. This leads to the outrageous conclusion: "nature stumped" which I find hilarious given the ambiguity. It seems with human beings involved nature must be perpetually stumped! Dennis is also a very playful poet and thus I cannot finish a review of this small chapbook of poems without mentioning the prose poems. These are lovely and sometimes humorous reflections. None of the ambiguity of the zen bytes here, just real life in the simplicity of a cat, or a hobo washing his feet, or the father who fought in World War II who is traumatized by the death of a goose and gander he shot and never hunts again. The prose poems are miniature short stories, and one is hard pressed to come up with a proper term to use in naming these writings. Instead of 14 syllables of ambiguity, contrast, and potential, we get a rather detailed portrait of a moment that reveals something quite profound in the person of another. There are just three presented here, although in his first "Fly in Time" book, which is 131 pages long, there are many more and he calls them "talking stories." But the three that are presented here I actually found more touching, real, and revealing that any of the ones in the previous volume. That's what makes this book particularly fun and exciting. There are only 14 poems presented, but they are extremely rich and for me as enjoyable as the whole other book of poems. Both can offer a rich feast whether as a complete banquet or a simple but beautiful plate of nouveau cuisine; right now I favor the latter.< Less
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Product Details

Twin Creeks Press --
September 26, 2010
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Full color
0.46 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
8.5 wide x 8.5 tall
Product ID
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