Sunday, March 15, 2015

Book Review: Wish I Could Dance, by Larry L. Fontenot

Wish I Could Dance is a collection of 21 poems by Texas poet Larry L. Fontenot.   The poems are all short -- most run between half a page and a page -- and, according to the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, Larry D. Thomas, they are "infused with the glow of profundity."

Fontenot is no novice poet.  In 2000 he won the Alsop Review Poetry Competition, and he has had poems published in Poet's Canvas, Red River Review, and the now-defunct Sulphur River Literary Review.  His other chapbook, Choices & Consequences, won the 1996 Maverick Press Southwest Poets' Series Chapbook Competition.

The poems in Wish I Could Dance range from direct and to the point to abstract and hard to follow.  I'm not the best judge of poetry -- a lot of it simply goes right over my head.  However, I did seem to get most of the poems in this book (which, for me, is impressive).

Like a lot of modern poetry, Fontenot's poems are rooted in themes of failure and angst.  However, he broaches these subjects in an interesting way.  A couple of the poems in the book explore the idea of drowning, including "Swimming Lesson," which this stanza is taken from:

I understand this about water:
it pulls you to it as gravity
pulls apples to ground,
as death drags men toward
the center of the earth,
if only by a miserly six feet.

There is also a common undercurrent of lost memory, encapsulated by this line from "Evidence of the Moon," where Fontenot writes that he "aches to hold time still and carve footholds in memory."

"Cadaver Dogs" is a strong poem, written about a girl who was missing and presumed dead.  It is speculative in nature, and one of the darkest poems of the book.

"Two Sessions with an Analyst" is a poem I didn't understand, but even that one was well-written.  Take these lines, for example:

Even when you stand still
the angle of the sun
moves the dark space
out of bounds, like the life
you thought you had
under control.

Overall the poems in this book are smooth and well-written.  All are free verse, and Fontenot shows a good grasp of stanza use and line breaks.  The cover image is clever -- a photograph of two left feet, taken looking down.

Wish I Could Dance is a professionally printed 32-page chapbook.  It had a relatively low retail price of $7.00, but doesn't currently seem to be available for sale anywhere.  It was published by Dallas Poets Community Press in 2009, as the winner of their chapbook contest.  Anyone interested might be able to find a copy on eBay at some point, or an online used bookstore such as Powell's Books.  You can read the title poem here:

http://www.redriverreview.net/A55656/RRR.nsf/c6c37550696a8f6f86256a3e00146d53/6ccca8ee854449e586256a3e00143d07

(Originally posted on Helium.com, June 2009)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Book Review: This Rage of Echoes, by Simon Clark

I'd heard of Simon Clark before, but I'd never read anything he wrote until I picked up a copy of This Rage of Echoes.  The plot sounded interesting -- clones of the main character keep popping up and trying to kill him -- and the book was on sale, so I gave it a try.  I wasn't impressed, but I don't regret reading it, either.  The book falls right around "average" on my scale.

The story centers around Mason Konrad, a likeable guy who for some reason keeps turning people around him into duplicates of himself.  That might not be such a bad thing, except for the fact that those duplicates seem bent on killing the original Konrad.  Mason meets up with other people who have been experiencing the same thing, and the book takes you on a violent, wild ride from there.

The beginning of the book is great -- there is a well-executed juxtaposition between the normalcy of cooking up some microwave pizzas and the savageness of slaughtering an Echoman, as the clones are called.  It definitely hooks the reader in.

The pacing fluctuates between split-second fights and hours (sometimes days) of relaxation and contemplation.  The main characters are well-developed and interesting, and most readers will find themselves engaged enough to wonder what happens next.  Clark is clearly a talented writer, and he does a good job of carrying this story through in first-person point of view.

When I was drawn into the story, I enjoyed it, but there were far too many times where I felt jerked out of the book and back into reality.  The narrator repeats a lot of things throughout the story, past the point of redundancy to where it's almost an insult to the reader.  Add to that a significant amount of typos (especially for a major publisher) and it's hard to remain focused on the story itself, which is a shame.

The ending was disappointing as well.  It seemed like a convenient way out, and it didn't fit in with everything that led up to it.  I really wanted to like this book, because the premise is unique and it could have made for a great story.

I probably wouldn't recommend This Rage of Echoes to other readers, but if given the opportunity I would try another book by Clark.  The praise he's received from other writers and from critics makes me pretty sure that this book isn't the best example of his writing prowess.

This Rage of Echoes is a 342-page mass-market paperback, published by Leisure Books in 2007.  You can get a new copy on Amazon for as low as $4.00 ($0.01 plus $3.99 shipping).

(Originally posted on Helium.com, Sept 2010)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Awesome Haiku

I know it's been forever since I posted -- life has been busy.  If you want to read an excellent haiku, and laugh at the same time, check out today's haiku at tinywords:

http://tinywords.com/2013/11/20/15416/

This poem by Annette Makino is the perfect example of how to use humor in haiku.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Scifaikuest, Haiku in English

The August issue of Scifaikuest is out and it's a good one.  I'm not gonna review it fully 'cause I'd be biased since one of my scifaiku are included, but there are some great poems in here by Kurt MacPhearson, Belly
Peterson, Aurelio Rico Lopez III, and LeRoy Gorman, among others.  There's scifaiku, horrorku, tanka, haibun, and more.  Definitely something for every fan of speculative poetry.  You can purchase a copy of the issue on the Alban Lake website for just $6.00, as well as check out unique free content in the August online edition.

In mainstream haiku news, a new haiku anthology that may very well take its place in the haiku pantheon next to The Haiku Anthology, The Haiku Handbook, and other staples, has just been released -- Haiku in English, edited by Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns.  This is a massive hardcover text, weighing in at 464 pages, with tons of English-language haiku.  It can be purchased on Amazon for $17.62, and it's eligible for free shipping.  (The Kindle version is only $11.99.)