This review first appeared on the Amazon.com website on January 18, 2013.
Unusual, personal, disturbing and wide-ranging.
This is a large collection of poems, some of which are intensely personal, and some of which are universal. From the opening poem, When We Were Young, you will be introduced to Albers’ philosophy. You will find some memorable lines, including this one: “There is no punishment/ man can bring down/ on another man’s head/ more powerful/ than forgiveness” in the poem When I’m Gone. A few of the later pieces are not for the faint of heart; there are difficult situations exposed, as in Cry Your Eyes Out and I’m Insane. It is a measure of the power of Albers that you will be uncomfortably involved in these poems. Again, not for the faint of heart is Cold Turkey. That said, you are in for a large and intense trip, an exploration of the human condition. There is hope of escape here too, as in the wonderful poem The Woods, one of my favourites. There are over ninety pieces here, including poems, lyrics, and some short essay/stories. One favourite poem, You Can Come Over, explores the paradox of loneliness leading to sex. Some of the pieces are puzzles, as in The Past, but from the previous poems we can make a good guess, eh?
In the title prose poem, Independence, we have a sort of culmination: Albers’ philosophy, fresh images, human situations, and a glimmer of hope. In The American Dream, this combination is achieved again in a totally unique creation. Another favourite, My Father’s Hands, is deep and resonant. Again in Catherine, Albers reaches into the reader’s gut with personal yet universal revelation. In Old Oak Tree we find an interesting metaphor and a combination of social commentary and Albers’ own dreams and demons.
Of the lyrics my favourite perhaps is Penelope, almost too powerful to be in a song. Another favourite lyric is Man of Few Words, with a satisfying twist ending.
If I had to make tiny carps, they would be these. While in general deliberate repetition is used to great and powerful effect, in a few cases of ‘accidental repetition’ perhaps a more careful word selection could have been more moving. Occasionally the rhythm might benefit from shortening, for example ‘so I leave the tv on to break the silence’ could be ‘tv left on to break the silence’. You notice this if you read aloud. The poems are not equally strong, which should be no surprise, given their great number and wide range of subject matter. Some are lyrics and some are poems in the gut-wrench sense of the word. This is an enjoyable work.
In the prose pieces there are pleasant surprises too, as in Lessons Learned. Here we learn a bit about the author, a songwriter, and his personal angst at himself in his quest for success and relevance. Again, in Hummingbird, there are memorable lines (see his breakfast for an example). The prose piece Something reminds me of Robert Frost: ‘truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.’ This is thoughtful work.
Why four stars? Five stars denotes a level of excellence rarely seen. Three stars is definitely OK and recommendable. Albers’ is not an easy work to rate, but I think four stars gives you a fair measure of the quality of the better poems, which are the ones that speak to you, personally. Recommended.
Jim Bennett (Kindle Book Review Team)