Going to go a different route this week and crow in the form of a book review of Ned Randle's Running at Night. The book, a collection of poems spanning from 1976 - 2012, is by a writer that we had the pleasure of publishing (his poem "Raymond") in Garbanzo Literary Journal (book two)
Hopefully, this comes across more in the realm of a European Theatre review than an American Film review. The difference? In the former, the writer tends to bring his or her own experience into the fray, and speaks of how the work had an effect on them, whereas the latter is more of an academic exercise used to try and bring people to or steer people away from a given work. The former is personal, the latter, too often, financial.
Never had the opportunity to write a review before - in this instance we were asked if we'd be willing. Completely voluntary. There's no pay in it, we have no financial interest in the sales of the book. The review is simply based on the author's words, and our (Mama Bird and my own) reaction to the very same.
It seems silly to have to state the above, but there are famous book review sites that have now become opportunities to guarantee your book is reviewed - as one can purchase a paid review. Now, there's no pretense here that these eyes have done any research on the percentage of paid reviews that turn out for the positive, bit one has to believe that the paid players are getting some semblance of a thumbs up - and even if not, if there truly is no such thing as bad publicity...
The other side of the coin (pun intended other than the fact that maybe this modern age ought change the cliché to read "the other button of the PayPal") is that one wonders how many reviews that make it into print or page are of the unpaid variety. Seems vaguely reminiscent of the idea of bands having to pay-to-play. Then again, it seems so many things are pay to play these days...and while art, when entering the realm of money, runs a desperate risk of falling forth into the dog-and-pony show that makes it little more than entertainment, it is no secret that to keep writing, to keep creating, to keep the loudspeaker lit, money is necessary...unless we all of us plan on being poets who are found, the last flicker remaining, while we splay face down, during a poetically romantic rainstorm, in a gutter.
That all being said, if what follows interests you, then you can read more, as well support Ned's writing, by purchasing a copy via Amazon.com
One could make the case, that over the centuries and across the landscapes, that the purpose of the poet has changed little - call up some basic truths of humanity and existence, mix them together with love and other reverberant emotions, and utilize the hammer-and-saw-and-dremel of language in a manner none have ever before seen (or at least none alive still remember).
Yet, in that same regard, one might be hard pressed to not reveal that the role of the poet has most certainly changed. The world we live in, so much further astray from settling in with a fine book, the number of modern poets most can name is reduced to one hand, and what was once the honored role of shaman and soothsayer has been relegated to the occasional inaugural ceremony and memorial service.
How, then, do our verse writers adapt and evolve in this tumultuous time when, it might be argued, they are needed most? Looking at Ned Randle's collection of one quarter century's worth of poetry, we catch more than glimpses - we ride along an avenue bustling with all of us - and a storyteller who sees us in the manner we need to, if not necessarily wish to, be seen - our present tense.
I step lively
off the curb with a shrug
feigning a failed remembrance.
He peeks out from my past now
matted and coarse under the crown of
his grimy cap, I look away
to disabuse him of any notions
-- Liturgy (page 7)
In an age when the reflection sought in the mirror is how the tendency turns to look for a night out on the town, rather than peering through the skin and inward with but a reading lamp and a sigh, we watch as the poet walks through this world. Walks through this world in search of...something that is everywhere yet often trying to hide - people. How then better to understand but to play that incognito game as well.
But is that all such a trek is to the poet? A taste, a glimpse? Yes, for they who toil over rhythm and soul work for us, and there is no respite when this (and by *this* do we mean just the poet, or by proxy, by association, by kith and kindred and heart, do we mean each and every one of us who has that little spark of a couplet inside?) is the path one chooses:
You could have lived the quiescent life
yet like the glistening gold dandelion
in the tender fist of a child
you pick the most favored fragile flower
the most favored yellow rose
-- The Poet (page 14)
For if ever there is a question, or a slight forgetfulness, of what it is that we as readers, as humans, search for, long for...then we sure as hell better make certain we continue to keep our poets well fed. Because who else would be willing to then tell us who we might dream and dare to become?
You may borrow all of these words,
keep them with you overnight and
tell me tomorrow,
do not hurry to decision now;
how will you feel
about some of the syllables?
-- Love Poem (page 50)
Thus, while our burden, is lifted (or maybe just held aloft with an extra set of arms that we might not see and lend that bounce in the step, from out the vacuum that is created when a poem so extraordinary takes our breath away, and leaves but a cushion of air on which the world might float) what of the weight upon our sherpa, our guide?
once a young
me that I
must have the
that she had
that I knew,
had told my
that same tale
-- Recollections (page 73)
Thus, when we read through Running at Night, we are reminded that while we all feel each and every of these illustrious emotions, it is still a gift to know how to pull forth the words to describe them. This is why writers such as Ned Randle are so integral in this day and age - and we ought honor that gift. We honor such gifts to help lift the poet's burden as the poet lifts our own:
Aged, finding it more
troublesome to keep them
together I rise and
don the tired cardigan
and go about raking
my memories into
a mound where they lie in
a friable heap, each
as indistinct as leaves
-- Memory (page 84)
What can we do, then, to ease this burden, the tired which must come? Truthfully, little. Any writer will tell you that none can ease the burden or lift the load. Yet we, as readers, have thank yous and nodded heads and snapped fingers and potentially a book or two to purchase, so to at least let the poet be aware, all the effort and the beauty is reaching hearts. In simpler times and turns - this is a book that should eventually grace our bookshelves, after taking a fair turn upon a coffee table and most specially, in our hands.
As reviewers, we are somewhat trained to believe we need to have something profound to say about a book, and look for all sorts of New Yorker-esque ways to abstractly tie up the piece as if we, ourselves, are the writers upon whom the spotlight is shining. But, one realizes, over time, that the point of a review, while possibly to provide slight bridges between the questioning audience and the place where the hands can reach the book, it is more important to step out of the way and let the author speak for themselves - in a manner that teases and tempts, lures and allures, with their own words. What better way to end, then, than with the last words of the book, that while they come forth from the poet, belong to us all?
It is a good solitude
after sunset running toward
the headlights on the highway
a mile and a half away.
He rounds the rose bush planted on
the edge of concrete and returns to
make pace with the selfless sounds of night,
-- Running at Night (page 86).
If you've read this far, you must think, feel, wonder, posit...something....about what you have just read. Even if it is but a greeting, leave a note at the bottom, to mark tangible trace that you were here. The internet does not have to remain so impersonal.
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