Review: Last Night’s Dream Corrected
Reviewed by Bob Williams
Last Night’s Dream Corrected
Pretend Genius Press
2006, ISBN 0-9747261-6-8, $10.50, 118 pages
This is an anthology of poetry. There are thirty-five poems written by twenty poets. The geographic range is wide. Many are from the large coastal cities of the United States, some are from Europe, and one lives about twenty miles from my home.
Pretend Genius itself requires comment. This is a loose assembly of writers who do serious things but are not themselves notably serious. The level of talent is remarkable. I have all their books and I have never been disappointed in any of them.
An anthology is an unnatural animal. Some of it can do tricks, but some of it can do no more than doze by the fire. The usual inspirational suspects are here. Some of the poets draw on popular culture and some draw on more classical material. Both have the same problem: will the reader catch their drift and allusions? Other poets use the simple language that bridges the gap without allusional obstructions. Plain words work – with the odd adjective or two to dazzle and wake the reader.
The introduction is by Bloog Mandrake. He refuses to discuss the poets. “So what could possibly be said about the poets in this anthology that they might not have already lied about to their mothers?” Instead he writes about readers and poetry. The latter, although not very well, declines to die, and the former can keep it healthy if they will.
As with every anthology, some parts are better than others – or perhaps more readily accessible. Some of ones that are not immediate in their appeal will wait for their time to come, their moment of fusion with a suddenly wakened reader. But the collection makes a strong beginning (as we will see later, it also makes a flourishing end). This is serendipitous since the poems are in alphabetical order. Raewyn Alexander’s three opening poems are very likeable. I especially enjoyed this verse from ‘thunder debates with ice and lightning leads.’
i sleepwalked in the eyes of it
drenched with what used to be promises
your dark ghost loosing new hair
insurance could cover this if it had heart
‘Nostos’ by Stratos Fountoulis is too long to quote and too much of a piece for easy excerpting. It is haunting and distinguished work by a man who modestly claims not to be a poet. He is unquestionably a distinguished artist, designer of many Pretend Genius covers and creator of the artwork.
Not all of the work in this collection is ‘pure’ poetry. Susan Kennedy’s two poems (‘It was the crow you see’ and ‘Proper poems will not be written’) dwell on the ethical meanings that we fasten on the external world or the limits that the proper world tries to fasten on reality. We are treading the dreaded border of the didactic here, but Kennedy is too nimble for such a trap, and these poems combine unusual material with great talent.
And Elias Miller’s two poems (‘death brings different socks’ and ‘God the stepfather’ have some of the same qualities of Kennedy’s evasion of solely poetic purposes. Miller, however, shows himself capable of more bitter-edged meditation.
It is impossible to pass by Dean Strom’s three excellent contributions without notice of his parody, clever and funny, of William Carlos Williams.
Blem Vide’s ‘Art Without Instructions (an art disclaimer)’ presents him at his best. The reader may find this poem as the opening of Vide’s Babble on to Babylon, one of the best books by a new poet that I know of. My favorite lines:
In art as in life – be just.
But if you cannot be just – be arbitrary.
The book closes with a most appropriate poem by Richard Wright (about whom there are no details in Contributors – most mysterious) about poetry.
This is obviously something of a scattergun as a review. I liked much more than I have mentioned and if you are a reader who reads poetry, you will have the same experience. I recommend this book very much.
You my buy “Last Night’s Dream Corrected” at Amazon.com http://www.compulsivereader.com/html/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1240
Cover designed by Stratos