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May 07

Blot Lit Reviews: Lantern Lit, Volume 2

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Lantern Lit, Volume 2
Dog on a Chain Press, 2014
ISBN 978-0-9855291-5-4
Reviewed by Michelle L. Quinn

There’s an argument out there – and one that we have here at Blotterature often enough – about what makes a “prose poem” a poem and not, say, a flash essay or flash fiction, but that’s an entirely different discussion not for our purpose here. For me, reading poetry that walks too far on the prose side of the line makes me wonder why it wasn’t just written as flash fiction or flash essay instead of trying to fit it into a poem, and as such is distracting. Such is the case of many of the poems throughout the Lantern Lit, Vol 2 collection featuring writers Michael Haeflinger, Mike Meraz and Frank Reardon, and I wonder if these particular collections would’ve been better billed as a poetry-prose hybrid instead of straight poetry.

That said, the three collections – Haeflinger’s “The Days Before,” Meraz’ “Rummage Sale Heart Shapes” and Reardon’s “The Broken Halo Blues” – are all strong. Each stand alone, though lost love was a recurring theme for Meraz and Reardon.

Of the three, Haeflinger is the traditional poet of the trio, with one poem written entirely in haiku entitled simply “haiku.” Another one, “Here Sits the Devil,” has a sing-song-y quality to it while discussing hell, or a version of it:

“here sits the devil,
here stands the boy

here writhes the girl
with the fireproof toy

here cries the mother,
there was the pa

here plays the daughter
a rusted hand saw

here hangs the savior,
here kneels the friend

‘here’ is the place
they all go in the end.”

What is “here?” Is it church? The afterlife? My thought is that it’s a religious family’s broken home.

Haeflinger also has a charming knack with animal metaphors, such as in “Going Away Party,” when he describes his subject’s smile as “a bag of lightning bugs on a bedside table”; or in “Commandments,” where he likens night to “a basket of baby mice, pink and blind and finite” to the “cauldron of witches brew” that is the day.

Of the three, Meraz writes primarily about lost and unrequited love, and his work is often stark and to-the-point, yet captures his longing. In one piece, “Only a Writer,” Meraz pines after a girl who gives him only cursory responses when she stops in to the grocery at which he works. He thinks (wishes?) that he can use his writer persona to woo her:

“I must think of something
suave to say to her,
something clever,

like in one of my poems
where a light shines
at the end
and a smile
enters the heart.”

Another one, “Bookstore,” wittily describes what happens when you have expectations on a date:

“I went out looking
for D.H. Lawrence.

I came home with
Villon and Carl Sandburg.

reminds me of a date
I once had
about 3 years ago.”

Reardon, meanwhile is the most guilty of the poems that would work just as well as flash fiction and possibly better, though that doesn’t mean the language is less lovely. When Reardon sticks with slice-of-life observations, he employs a powerful simplicity that’s impossible to ignore and hard not to admire. His poem, “Lonely Larry,” describes a 60 year-old lumber merchandiser who lusts after a woman with whom he works:

“Whenever Kayla, the woman with the perfect ass, the woman who can speak perfect French, says ‘hi,’ Larry’s fake deep voice turns high-pitched and nasally. He’s 60, but whenever that French painting struts by with her big black boots he turns into himself: quiet, nervous, perverted, the shy little boy.”

Where I feel he gets trapped is when he, like many others in his cohort, leans too much on the Bukowski aesthetic, which I feel is played out.

Lantern Lit, Volume 2 is a clean collection with some very good work in it. My hope, however, is that Reardon and Meraz will eventually consider turning some of their prose poetry into straight prose.

 

Interview with Michael Haeflinger

1 ping

  1. An Interview with Michael Haeflinger » Blotterature

    […] « Blot Lit Reviews: Lantern Lit, Volume 2 […]

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