Book and Chapbook Reviews: Comstock Review Poets
Authors - D
Philip Dacey (See The Critic's Pen for Ellen McNeal's review of Mosquito Opera (Rain Mountain Press, 2010) His tenth book is Vertebrae Rosaries (Red Dragonfly Press, 2009), a series of fifty beautifully skillful sonnets that span the emotional range from the more serious, such as love, movies and mother, through today's Vietnam landscape, and nude art to hilarious spoofs on the spondee, and on the sonnet itself. There is even one titled "Having Lied to Avoid a Meeting with Lawyers, He Spends All Day in Bed Reading Baudelaire!" This lively and beautifully nuanced collection should not be missed. The Deathbed Playboy (Eastern Washington University Press, 1999) and What's Empty Weighs The Most (Black Dirt, 1997), a chapbook of 24 sonnets, show why Philip Dacey is held in such high esteem. He is, by turns, elegant and funny; Stephen Dunn praises his "unsolemn seriousness and rangy wit." and reviewers describe him as "a charmer, a fantasizer, a pyrotechnician in the child's world of adult poetry." The San Francisco Review of Books states "Dacey's work never fails to amaze." And continues to amaze. With The Mystery of Max Schmidt (Turning Point, 2004), Dacey produces a remarkable book on the life and paintings of 19th Century painter Thomas Eakins. This is a fascinating narrative of the painter's world and meditation on the relationships between art and life, a mixture of ekphrasis and biography. As poet and biographer Albert Goldbarth says, the book blends "literary and artistic biography with the infrastructure of traditional forms. The Eakins book is the apotheosis of that lovely search.." (Updated 04/09 by Jennifer MacPherson)
Rachel Dacus charms us with her Femme au chapeau (David Roberts, 2005), poems of arresting, vivid imagery and unsentimental candor. The poet has an observant eye and unfailing musicality. The poems rove over such diverse topics as art, travel, the immigrant experience, ethnic and religious diversity, and the writer's life. www.dacushome.com . She has followed this up with Another Circle of Delight (Small Poetry Press, 2007), a 36 page chapbook in the Select Poets Series. These poems of spring and rebirth are wise, honest, and celebratory, and include vividly imaged ekphrastic poems about Monet. (Updated 3/08)
Between One Future And The Next (Papier Mache Press, 1994) is by Ruth Daigon, the revered founder and former editor of Poets On. These are unsentimental, celebratory poems of clarity and authenticity dealing with everyday life. In Payday at the Triangle (Small Poetry Press, 2001), she retells the story of the famous 1911 fire in persona poems of survivors, combining these with photographs and newspaper reprints in a stirring collection.
Mary Agnes Dalrymple is the author of Rosa Mystica (MaryAnkaPress, 2004), a collection of poems inspired by the mysteries (biblical stories) of the rosary followed by a small section of other Biblically-inspired poems (Salome, Lazarus, etc.). This charming and unpreachy book is also illustrated and hand-sewn by the poet. www.maryanka.com (added in 2006)
Catherine Daly surprised us with DaDaDa (Salt, 2003:UK), a hypnotically twisted love tome (208pages) which investigates the relation between language systems and the erotics of communication. She follows this with Locket (Tupelo, 2005) a disarming collection of poems mixing sense and nonsense written with sensibility and style and great humorous word-play.
Night with Drive-By Shooting Stars (New Issues, 2002) is Jim Daniel's latest collection. It looks unsparingly at his life, family, aging and the inevitable end of us all with a mixture of remembered joy, compassion and rage. His is a voice to trust, direct and clear, yet the poems are fresh as flowers.
Phebe Davidson is the author of a glorious collection of "minutes," The Surface of Things (David Robert, 2009). A minute is a poetry form invented in the mid 1990's consisting of 12 lines arranged in three four-line stanzas, the first line of each consisting of 8 syllables, and the succeeding lines consisting of four syllables each, rhyme scheme AABB CCDD EEFF. These deft poems reflect nature in its myriad shimmerings. Previously, Fat Moon Rising (Main Street Rag, 2008), gives us passionate perspectives on myth and fairy tale, with a few poems of lamentation, dealing with personal grief. These finely crafted lyrical poems exhibit both daring and wit, as well as sure technique. Naomi Shahib Nye describes the poems in Dreameater (Delaware Valley Press, 1998), a previous collection, as "Dazzling orbits of attention, desire and presence ... her poems couple a sustained sense of regret with a forward-moving, compelling energy." Read works by the author here. (Updated 4/09).
The debut collection, The Lost Tribe of Us (Main Street Rag, 2007), by Heather Davis, exhibits originality, intelligence, imagination, and a fine lyric line. Subjects begin with family members and the self, the family as an entity, and expands to contain the world at large. Expect clarity, emotional intensity, and gifted, controlled writing. (new 11/07).
Janine DeBaise brings us Of A Feather (Finishing Line, 2003), a delightful 30 page chapbook that tells tales from a western hiking trip: the strange new terrain, the birds, the cliffs and canyon, the brief relationship with a compelling man.
Mary Christine Delea's poems are wonderfully original, as she proves in The Skeleton Holding Up the Sky (Main Street Rag, 2006). They range over wide geographical and emotional terrain and are well-grounded in both the concrete detail and its relation to the universal. Her previous chapbook, Ordinary Days In Ordinary Places (Pudding House, 2000), is likewise versatile as to subject matter and its poems possess fabulous titles, for example, "The Hell With Tea and Pie at Denny's," another is "After My Druggist Dreams of Apple Trees." (updated in 2006)
Jeannine Dobbs' Hearthstones shares the pages of Three Some Poems (Alice James, 1976) with two other chapbook-sized poetry collections by poets Kinereth Gensler and Elizabeth Knies. The short, often spare, poems trace a path from bleak childhood to attentive, adult serenity. The twenty-one poems themselves are direct and convincing; I wish there were more. (added 11/6/06. Still in print)
Connie Donovan: Fire Cloth (White Eagle Coffee House Press, 1999) won the press's 1998 chapbook competition for poet Connie Donovan. These two dozen exquisitely crafted lyric poems link to tell a story of love and faith, their conflict and their redemptive power. Very fine work indeed. See also poetry sequence Job's Wife for more poems!
Einstein Considers A Sand Dune (Steel Toe, 2004) is the quirky title of James Doyle's volume which won the 2003 Steel Toe Prize in Poetry. Delightfully imaginative, the poems in this collection play with time and timelessness, juggling opposites while indulging in some apt ironic humor.
Wendy Drexler is the author of the inventively-titled Drive-ins, Gas Stations, The Bright Motels (Puddinghouse Press, 2007), a 32 page chapbook nominated for a 2007 Pushcart by the publisher. This is basically a childhood memoir, so genuine and true. We see the indulgent father, the fissure in the marriage and its failure, the child treating her mother's boyfriends with contempt even when she likes them, the Colorado landscape.. The language delights. This is first-rate: varied and inventive. (reviewed 12/07, added 3/08)
Ellen Dudley's powerful poems are collected in two books Slow Burn (Provincetown Arts Press, 1997), brilliant, gutsy poetry revealing the intertwine of desire and violence, and her new The Geographic Cure (Four Way Books, 2007), an amazing collection of erotic poems, poems of place, and poems detailing, mourning, the impermanence of time, the fleetingness of each moment. There are elegies here and wild love songs. She charts the erotic history of butterfly and cricket. It is a marvelous collection, one of the best of 2007. (updated 4/07)
Rishma Dunlop: The romantic, The Body of My Garden (Mansfield, 2002), comes from the skillful, painterly pen of Toronto poet Rishma Dunlop. These sensuous songs embody the burdens and exhilarations of love as the poet seeks grace in everyday life. The language shimmers as it probes the darkness of our paradoxical world, finding salvation in the many forms that love may take. This is followed by the lyrical White Album (INANNA, 2008), an exploration of multiculturalism in 1960's Canada set to the precision of language that comprises the poet's work, the lush interplay of image and text, highlighted by inspired paintings of artist Suzanne Northcott. We are reminded of the fierce and explosive, often contradictory, changes of the era, and the importance of developing one's sense of self. (Updated 4/09.)
Lisken Van Pelt Dusí Everywhere at Once (Pudding House, 2009) is a lovely exploration of the individual grounded in nature and of nature itself. Plants, flowers, and birds abound in a variety of landscapes.. It is also an exploration of time and our mortality. And it is lovely, mature work that deserves a wide audience. www.puddinghouse.com (8/09)