Go to Homepage   Harvey Stanbrough: Intimations of the Shapes of Things


Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage: four moon gifWJM Press (Trade Paperback), ISBN 1-886467-95-0
A slender volume of metric, accessible, insightful verse by a poet compared to Robert Service -- but not by me. Service wrote his poetry for another age, one that appreciated doggerel. Harvey Stanbrough qualifies a major poet -- either now or in the making -- and his work compares favorably with that of William Stafford. Like Stafford, Stanbrough writes of the commonplace, showing the magical or the incomprehensible found in the heart of a single moment. And more importantly, he gives the reader an understanding of his poetic vision and does it painlessly.

Image: Harry Stansbrough, poet.
"Harvey Stanbrough (photo courtesy Harvey Stanbrough)

The book is divided into two sections: "The Shapes of Things" and "A Nutshell History of Man." Since doing a poem by poem review ranks high on the list of impossible things to do, I chose one poem from each section. I chose them for no apparent reason other than a phrase or a bit of wisdom in each caught my imagination and made me want to explore them further. (No, I'm not going to do a Poetry 101 explication.)

The first poem, "Concerning a Quiet Mystery of Life," reminded me so much of my own sons as they grew up. It concerns a boy who picks up a mouse killed by the family cat, disposes of it, washes his hands, then pets the cat and makes toast without rewashing his hands. In part, the section I loved goes:

He hangs the towel to dry, then takes quick measure
of himself in a handy mirror;
almost a man, this hesitant undertaker
of mice and other cat-beheaded things
is prideful he remembered sanitation.

The second poem, "To 60 Minutes, Concerning the May 24, 1998 Show," conveyed a more serious and universal truth. You need to read it in its entirety to get the full meaning, but it starts:

He's right, you know, the novelist who failed
to smile and nod mechanically to please
your insolent cameras and your faux-naf:
his art is not a battleground for health,
nor should he be politically correct
if he would write the ills of humankind.

I am not the only reader who appreciates Stanbrough's works. He boasts an awesome and well-deserved list of achievements and honors. Previous collections of his work include On Love and War and Other Fallacies, nominated for a 1999 Pulitzer Prize in Letters; Residua, the title poem of which was named Best Poem on the Internet in 2000, and which will soon go into its second edition as an electronic book; and Lessons for a Barren Population, the first full-length, original poetry collection published as an electronic book. Lessons for a Barren Population also received a nomination for a 2000 Frankfurt E-book Award.

Patricia Lucas White

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