Poems Without Homes Ken Greenley

This review first appeared on Amazon.com, in the Kindle book of the above title and author.

A fine collection of poems, with a bonus of seven flash stories.

five stars

As always, do not let my star count override your judgement of content. More on the stars, counting, and my rating challenges later.

Also as always, Google anything you aren’t certain of. For example, Stalingrad has a history of which I had only the crudest concept.

Greenley has served you up some forty poems plus seven pieces of flash fiction. The poems are mostly in free verse and narrative in content. However, the very first poem, At These Altitudes, will give you, the reader, a direct experience, as will Unsupervised – which is bound to bring back memories in the older readership.

Social commentary is nicely contained in several poems here, including These Hands, Bad Cartoon, Everyman Today, Seven Billion, and Peace, Man – the latter being a favourite here, including this: “From what I’ve seen to most people, /especially americans /peace means nobody fights me /as I continue to have it my way /all the time /this is not peace this is domination.”

Again in Their Stalingrad, we find this: “The last time I counted /My country was bombing six different countries: /Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen & Somalia /this is just what we know about.”

For another scary piece of social commentary, turn to Glass Highway, which ends thus: “Income replaced by government checks and TV /no sense of worth or identity /and a whole lot of time doing nothing /Boredom sets in /then alcohol /then not caring, /then broken bottles beside the highway.”

For a beautiful piece of description, turn to No Life – which is about life in the desert: “They say /There’s no life in the desert /They are wrong /Beneath the midday sun, /Flowers burst far and wide /Ragged clouds rip /Through a big old sky /Rock formations shimmer /Distant horizons glimmer /Through wavy heat lines.”

Again in Welcome to Canyonlands, this quote will give you a sample of Greenley’s power: “on the side of the road /was a full skeleton /of a calf /lying stretched out /bright white in the desert noonday sun /the hot sky looking real big //I looked up at the sun /then back down at the skeleton /Whoa /At first my kneecaps started to quiver /dry tongue licking roof of nervous mouth /Then I remembered /the ten gallons of water…”

There is pure fun in some poems, as in Hellfire in the San Luis Valley, where we find this: “At first I thought how weird it was /That this was the only station to come in /But then I reconsidered, thinking no, this is normal /Very normal /For this place, the San Luis Valley /Home to alligator farms /UFO observation decks /Nudist camps /Freaky bed and breakfasts /Grain and feed stores from yesteryear /Hayrides freely advertised /Home to Mennonites, Buddhists /and Tai Chi practitioners alike /Also hermitages where no one is allowed to talk.”

A subtle comment on life and hardship occurs in Tilapia, which ends thus: “A complete absence of struggle /And you can taste it /In the blandness of the flesh.”

Finally, for one more favourite, turn to Theesman (sic) for a fun narrative poem.

Then there are seven pieces of flash fiction. As you might guess, these are also nicely narrated, as in Freak’s Varsity Jacket, which begins thus: “To look at me now, with my long hair, long winter coats, and cowboy boots, no one would believe that I used to wear a varsity jacket. But I did. I wasn’t a jock, not quite. I was half-freak, half-jock. A ‘frock.’ //It served as good cover, being a jock. I was doing good on the track team, running the mile or the two mile, coming in second or third, sometimes even winning. The coaches, my parents, everyone in the adult world was convinced I was a varsity jacket-wearing, hard-striving athlete. They had no idea that I was smoking pot, doing acid and hanging out with freaks on the weekends, and all offseason.…… like I said, I had the perfect cover going.”

Back to the star count. Star counts are hard. I try to be consistent. My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. Greenley is up against Robert Service, and perhaps Stephen Crane, in his narrative power and presenting of an experience. In this company he stands pretty tall, therefore roughly equal to best in genre. Five stars it is, and heartily recommended.

Kindle Book Review Team member.

(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)