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Overdue Review

For some months, I have been intending to post a brief review of poet Bart Edelman's book, The Alphabet of Love, published by Red Hen Press. The book was published in 1999. It was new to me, however, in 2006. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Edelman's poetry moves lightly, lines flowing quickly into each other, touching depths without getting mired in same. There is humor here, too, seen most clearly perhaps in the opening poem for which the collection is named:

"A adores B,
But B is enamored of C,
C suffers terribly
From a protracted divorce with D
And won't get involved with anyone now;
However, C thinks E is fun
To help break the weekend monotony.
E seems mixed up
And fell for F
Last month at a dance ranch . . . . "

And on it goes all the way to Z and a classic "If only . . . . " that brings the poem full circle.

Edelman's technique is admirable. His lines are honed. He handles rhyme and rhythm with subtlety and skill. No prose masquerading as poetry here. And yet, some of these poems take us into stories, and some of those stories twist deftly at their conclusions, as in "Modern Man:"

"Standing on the ledge,
A floor above Wall Street,
Modern Man proposes
Love on demand--
The stock exchange of bartered souls
Immune to price control;
Here, the platinum hearts
Stagger to outbid each other . . . .

" . . . Aboard his sleek new yacht,
Modern Man imposes
Respect upon command;
His stern, stiff salute
Welcomes a somber crew
Who walk zombie-like
To their appointed stations . . .

"In the dimly lit studio
Across from Freedom hall,

Modern Man composes
His sonata of sand--
The grand plan--
Where he is saved in the wick of time
By the holy redeemer . . .
Free now to justify his life,
He takes a holiday,
But soon returns
To orchestrate his own demise."

Too long to quote here, the poem "Mark Twain's Cigar" is marvelous, a piece I think the American master would appreciate were he here to read it today. "The Crow's Nest" is one of my favorite poems in the collection, highly evocative and multinivel in its meaning.

"When a lonely crow
Measures the black stars
Against a dark sky,
Nothing can safely pass
Between night and sleep."

"The Great Dark" is a poem that also treats "the alphabet of love," although in a completely different vein from the opening poem. It ends with:

"And, still, there's no guarantee
That what we see
Illuminates the great dark.
Could the firefly speak,
She would reveal
The story of her life,
Where day becomes night
With just the sudden flick
Of an internal switch.
If only it were that simple
For the rest of us,
Caught somewhere in midair,
Flying through the gloom--
Our fluorescent search begun,
Love's labor never done."

For more information on Bart Edelman, click here and/ or here.
Excerpts from poems, copyright 1999, Bart Edelman. All rights reserved.


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