View From the Back Window: Blue Collar Poetry on Life
by Dan Boyd
196 Poems ~ 341 Pages
Price: $20.00
Publisher: North Orchard Press, LLC
ISBN: 978-1-7363148-3-38
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Reviewed by Michael Escoubas

In this illuminating new work Dan Boyd explores five critical areas of life. These areas include: Relationships, Mental Health, Religion, Looking Back and The COVID Crisis. Written in clear, accessible free verse, Boyd offers an arm-around-the-shoulder to his reading audience. I felt in the presence of a life-long friend, even though Dan and I have yet to meet. Indeed, his thematic foci are universal, always relevant, always meeting us where we live.

A Word About Style

Boyd’s writing style is disarmingly simple. He writes in free verse. His poems appear without punctuation. I like their uninhibited presence on the page. Line breaks are well-chosen for a comfortable read. Many poems feature both end-rhyme and interlinear rhyme worked into the poems like a baker’s hands, gently kneading dough. My wife, who enjoyed the book immensely said, “I like these poems because they speak to my heart!


“Friends” opens the collection with ruminations about people close to us that we have lost. The poet explores the impact of loss on our lives and writes encouragingly about a subject we often take for granted. We live in a moment in history, perhaps unprecedented, where people have fewer friends than ever before. Someone has used the term, the cocooning of American life, by which is meant the universal tendency toward living lives of relative isolation. Dan writes:

        Hold on to your friends as we take reality in stride
        It’s always easier with a partner
        And friend
        To the end

Boyd has an uncanny ability to “get at” things. His poems sometimes ring an uncomfortable bell about relationships that might have been different; indeed, should have been different. In “The Words Don’t Come,” the poet identifies with countless numbers of readers. As his beloved lies upon the threshold of death, he realizes that “My fears and anxiety over you leaving me / Have paralyzed me and my thoughts.”

Mental Health

This section opens with a poem close to my heart. Having retired in 2013, I relate profoundly to the poet’s observations in “Retirement”:

        It’s for those that can take it
        I have had enough
        Retirement is rough
        Changing my schedules
        Changing my habits
        Drinking coffee at 5:00 and taking my tablets

Boyd continues his ironic treatment of a stage of life anxiously anticipated but found mildly disappointing:

        Work was always my bucket list
        I gained confidence and strength
        In doing something right
        Hard to turn it off
        Still thinking at night
        About tomorrow
        There should be an easy feeling
        Instead of sorrow

This poet is not predictable and that is what I like about his work. Many retirees will experience an Ah! Ha! moment as the poem ends.

Continuing within the same section, titles such as, “Laughter,” “Can You Remember,” “To Those of Us That Dream,” “Stranger in the Mirror,” “Living in the Past,” and many more, assemble the bricks and mortar of retirement life. I was particularly moved by “Let It Slide”:

        Be forgiving as you go down the road
        You never know how heavy the load
        Might be for your fellow man
        Be gentle as you listen to others complain
        You might be waiting on the rain
        To stop
        Then drop to your knees in utter pain
        Never assume everything and everyone is good
        Be sensitive to your surroundings and the air your breathe
        Be cautious to just assume
        And then consume
        The latest fad

In the “Religion” section, Boyd does not talk down to people, overstate his piety or lecture. He is aware of the wide diversity of thought and belief in this area. Yet he does not shy away the salient truth that as we age, we come to realize that we are in our “last chapters.” Faith, for Boyd, begins to saturate life as never before. In this light the poet offers “Set My Soul Free”:

        Set my soul free
        To drift upon the wind
        Never to hear the sounds of pain
        Ever again
        Let my spirit rise
        In the morning air

The poem continues as something of a petition realized only as this mortal life genuflects to a new and different kind of life:

        Might I grab the tail of the closest kite
        And breathe
        Set my soul free
        May I be free to stop the hurt

Some aspects of life present challenges. I almost skipped over “Looking Back,” because the poet got too close to the real me. After questioning the truth of the cliché that “hindsight is 20/20,” he asks, Would you have honestly changed anything? Were you really fair, respectful, honest, and caring in how you treated people? I got upset with these questions because the plain truth is that I have lived an incredibly self-serving life. There are 51 poems in this section, all soul-nourishing, all designed to wrap the reader in a shawl of compassion.

11 poems about Covid-19 bring the volume to a gentle close. Dan Boyd’s “view from the back window” offers a perspective on life that is not limited to those who identify as “blue collar.” Indeed, the poet waxes universal as shown by these lines from the collection’s last poem, “In the Land of Milk and Honey”:

        We need the personal connections for all of us are brothers
        We bear the burden as we share in the grace


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