Two sample literary reviews are below.
Waking Before Dawn
by Thomas R. Smith 2007; Red Dragonfly Press
Review published in Small Press Review Sept.-Oct. 2007. Copyright 2007.
The author is a well-published poet with eight books, several an- thologies, edited books, and literary criticism articles. With so many accomplishments, I expected great work that, in the words of the publicist, “confronts the challenge and responsibility of moral awareness in some of the best and most varied poems he has written.” Sadly, I was mistaken.
The book was divided into four sections (Trust, The End of Poetry: Elegies, People Falling, April Snow) with the pages nearly evenly divided among them. The first section contained unimpressive love poems with odd comparisons (I love your laughter/red as a basket of strawberries) and diction (Worn by the distances we the already-married/ have traveled down the road on which these two/are setting out). The second part included elegies to persons known by the author and celebrities. The poetry about those he knew was good, though very prosy. They were genuine, unforced, but unlyrical. The third part was the pinnacle of the book. The war poems were thoughtful, charged, and complex. They illustrated the grace and skill of the author. The fourth part was also good with poems mostly on war and growing old. They possessed a casual unfolding with easy lyricism.
by Jeffrey Ethan Lee
Review published in Small Press Review.
A chapbook is a great way to experience a sampling of a poet’s work. Mr. Lee compiled some of his earlier work inspired by Taoist meditation postures and Buddhist wisdom literature for this chapbook, his second poetry chapbook. His compilation was successful for it won him the 2002 Chapbook Competition of The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and was published as an issue of that review. He is a fine example of the diverse works the small press publishes and large press rarely publishes.
The poems are rooted in transpersonal states and romantic love. He uses nature imagery frequently, as one would expect from his inspiration. The poet explains ordinary things— breathing, walking, a pumping heart—with grace and visual acuity. A few images, such as “liquid joy” and “green fire” eluded me, but his images are solid and sometimes startling as in “Breath (an epitaph)”—
Storm-sunken ships yield
no trophies and no wisdom
to oceans—like breaths also
scattered I must come and go—
Some poems are written in a “two-voiced lyric form” where one poem is placed opposite another on the same page and they speak to each other. This creates an unusual harmony and contrast. It brings a welcome change from the average one-page-per-poem standard.
I look forward to his first full-length book, whenever that may be. And, you should, too. At six dollars, this chapbook is a gift not only for its craft, but its inspiration.