“What Water Does at a Time Like This” by Joseph Green
“Googling a Present Participle” by Wayne Lee
Even after all these years, I’m astonished by how quickly our daylight hours diminish at this time of year. I still have things to do in the garden! I still need to clean out the shed!
It’s no coincidence, then, that the books I’ve elected to tell you about this week are ones that you can dip into and out of as you please.
First up is a volume published by MoonPath Press, a small publishing house in Kingston that is dedicated to promoting the work of Pacific Northwest poets.
“What Water Does at a Time Like This” contains the mindful work of Longview poet Joseph Green. These poems – nearly 60 in all – stitch meaning to mortality, and memory to our propensity to forget. They are lyrical musings about existence and faith.
The poems are grouped into five loosely thematic sections. My favorite section, titled The Seven Pools, contains six poems about swimming pools – each very different from the other – and a seventh poem that offers pool as metaphor. Using the context of water, these terrific poems gently poke at us to consider the fluidity of human experience – from trust to betrayal, from resistance to submission, and from activity to tranquility.
Other pieces contemplate transience, travel, optimism and war.
Taken altogether, these poems offer imaginative wordcraft and thoughtful perspective. Green is empathetic without being sentimental. This slim volume of his is a treasure.
And now I’m going to do a complete one-eighty in mentioning the other book in this week’s lineup: “Googling a Present Participle.” Author Wayne Lee, British Columbia-born and Bellingham-raised, now lives in Hillsboro, Oregon. In this book, he offers a mash-up of poems, monologues, and other writings.
The first poem in the book, “Psalm 656” is an enticing introduction, but readers will soon discover that Lee’s material is wildly uneven. Within a couple of pages, this high-spirited volume doesn’t hesitate to stoop to the lowest common denominator – or below.
However, if you aren’t put off by irreverence, go ahead and persevere – you’ll likely find some fun bits of writing in these pages.
Here are some of the pieces that that tickled me. “Punchline” is a great bit of wordplay – a poem that mangles all the jokes you’ve ever heard. I also enjoyed the satirical pseudo-reviews that elevated pomposity to new heights (note to self: lighten up).
And I got a good chuckle out of “The Major Poets,” a free verse poem in which Lee adopts the persona of an insecure, unsuccessful poet to evaluate the masters of the form.
Then there’s some heavier stuff. Amidst the clever puns and scathing character assessment of “Hanford’s Reaction,” readers stumble across a potentially terminal diagnosis. And “For Evelyn, Whenever I May Find Her,” is an odd, sad, and cringe-inducing look back at youthful cruelty.
How to describe “Googling a Present Participle” in a nutshell? Brash, insightful, quirky, crude – and sometimes funny.
The Bookmonger review appears each week in Take Five. For more entertainment, go to BellinghamHerald.com/entertainment.