Episodes

Mark Young has been writing poetry for over 45 years. That’s a long time, and if you think that someone so experienced will write staid, serious poems as dull as your great uncle, you’re wrong (and age-ist). This book is full of life and as playful as Allen Ginsberg’s last poems. Experience has led him to an accessible style of writing. His poems are deceptively simple, like Japanese poetry, which I suspect he is fond of. In his poem “A foreshortened foxtrot for Charles Olson” he writes: “These days/ I write like/ an old man/ dances. The/ rhythm/ still there / but blurred.” He favours short lines, making for a quick poem. How does he decide on the length of each line? This is an important point for anyone who has tried their hand at poetry. A poem’s presentation and rhythm is as important as its content. You could go mad thinking about structure, trochees and the length of breaths, but Young writes that all of that is too complex and that his way is simpler. Aspiring poets, take note: “Go down/ to the beach to do/ your writing & put in/ a line break/ every/ time a/ beautiful/ body/ passes/ by.”

Young is from New Zealand and currently lives in Australia, a place with many fine beaches, and judging from the last excerpt, many beautiful bodies. Beauty leads him to poetry, as does politics. This is a timely book that zeroes in on Bush Jr.’s war and the related fear that seems so pervasive in American life. This fear has infected other countries as well. My sister in London, England is scared all the time and many of my Torontonian friends have become afraid to fly. As Young writes in “Conspiracy City”: “I barely blink when the/ fighter-jets come/ screaming down/ the valley /…. & this/ is only a/ whisper/ of what it’s/ like to live/ in fear.”

This is a diverse, intelligent and highly entertaining book of poems written by a poet on top of his game. (Vincent Ponka)

by Mark Young, $12, 152 pgs, xPress(ed), Espoo, Finland, info@xpressed.org, xpressed.org or cafepress.com/xpressed44.53907318

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