Reviews

Older and Better

JILL MANDRAKE

A Rob Thomas review in Broken Pencil, of Ray Robertson’s The Old Man in the Mirror Isn’t Me (Exile Editions), was so intriguing and complimentary that I had to rush off and order a copy. Once again I proved to myself that book reviews are an underrated, sure-fire medium of promotion. I wasn’t disappointed: Robertson’s minimalist poems, or “Last Call Haiku” as they’re subtitled, are both vibrant and entertaining. The author prefaces his collection with an essay called “Why I Am Not a Poet,” presumably because he’s published eight novels, four collections of nonfiction, and no previous poetry. This essay alone is worth the $18.95 purchase price, because it doubles as a self-help lesson for people stopped up with writer’s block. To illustrate, Robertson’s depiction of a successful poetry reading can make even the most ill-fated poet feel like a winner: “You showed up, you hoped there were more people in the audience than there were on stage, and if you were lucky, you might even go home with some beer money.” In one section where the author sets down his literary influences, he mentions Richard Brautigan in a mostly dismissive manner, but poems such as “Waiting for the leaves to fall,” “The world wakes up with a hangover” and “In front of the men’s shelter an empty beer can” evoke some of Brautigan’s basic themes from The Tokyo-Montana Express (1980). Robertson’s strong point is how he suspends moments of time in his micro-poems. An example is this archetypal portrait of a rural Dad, who seems to span the generations:  “My father doesn’t need to be happy / To be happy / The first sniff of spring and errands outside all day.”

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JILL MANDRAKE

Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. https://hido.bandcamp.com/album/the-neti-pot

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