Odes: Poets Praising People, Places & Things
Editors Jennifer Dotson & Mary Beth Bretzlauf
68 poems ~ 79 pages
Price: $12.00
Publisher: Highland Park Poetry
ISBN: 979-8-218-03079-9
To Order: Amazon.com

Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

In an age of fault-finding coupled with often hypercritical rhetoric (think about the world of politics) how refreshing to encounter a volume devoted to poems of praise! This is not surprising. Editors Jennifer Dotson and Mary Beth Bretzlauf are known for lifting readers’ spirits toward the good in life. The poetic gems in this volume showcase poems about people, places, and things. Its modest asking price is attractive considering what you get: con-tributing poets from 15 states and the UK, a wide array of styles and diverse “takes” on their subjects, poems by children, poems by established poets, poems from folks new to pub-lishing. If I were teaching creative writing to youth, I would use this volume to illustrate the universal reach of poetry and poetry’s ability to opine on a wide range of topics. Covers 1 and 4 display attractive designs by gifted members of Highland Park Poetry. Toward the back of the volume be sure to catch interesting biographies of each contributing poet.

A moment ago I mentioned poems by children. What better way to begin a review? In the “Odes to People” section, I share “Eyes as Blue as the Sky,” by 3rd Grader, Louella Kornfeld:

         She has eyes as blue as the sky,
         Hair that shines so bright.
         And I think to myself, what a wonderful Mom.
         When she smiles it lights the world.
         She’ll love me more than this world.
         And I think to myself, what a wonderful mom.
         She’s unreplaceable, and out of this world.
         She watches me grow oh so.
         And I think for myself what a wonderful Mom.

         I love you Mom, Happy Mothers’ Day.

This fledgling poet is already using simile and repetition effectively, along with good end-line decisions and a strong closure.

Some years ago I wrote a fun poem entitled “Thing-A-Ma-Jigs.” It spoofed the entire world of jigs, gizmos, gadgets and other odd devices. I feel a connection. Odes to “Things” comprises the largest of the three sections, 33 poems in all. The editors grant a wide berth of poems in this category. A “thing” might be rain, or black curly hair, or feet, or big hats, or flowers. Just about anything can be a “thing.” Since I am an inveterate chocolate lover, I was all over “Ode to Chocolate” by Highland Park, Illinois resident Marjorie Rissman:

         only the sweet smell of chocolate baking arouses
         the house to joyful anticipation of luscious frenzy
         whether it be brownies or Bundt cate, the aroma
         drives us up a wall waiting for the baking to be done,
         the cooling to begin, the sampling to be undertaken.

         meanwhile the scent is more alluring than perfume,
         the taste more mouthwatering than most, the sight
         more dreamlike than remembered. I prefer the
         baking to the eating, the aroma to the end result
         and wish chocolate could fill the air everywhere.

If you have a favorite place to be, “Odes to Places” will not disappoint. My personal bucket list includes a visit to the United Kingdom, specifically London. Cramington, UK, resident Adrian McRobb, is my transport in his poem, “Thames”:

         Fog clings to water moving with the tide
         dim figures to and from under muted lamps
         dark ghosts of boats drag sullenly pat
         as the meniscus pendulums with movement
         weed draped ladders gently sigh in sympathy
         pontoons new invisible drum the banks
         city spires tower above the river’s shroud
         The Tower traitorously lets the water through
         as hamlets cling to its condensating base
         shadows glide in damp folds of grey cloth
         lamenting the turn of their sundial’s hour …

For those who may have yawned their way through Shelley and Keats in Freshman English, take heart … Odes: Poets Praising People, Places & Things, will have you smiling all the way to study hall.


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