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Cocktail Napkins & Birthday Cards.

Don an Alcoholic; COCKTAIL NAPKINS & BIRTHDAY CARDS; (Poetry) $12.95 ISBN: 9781411694583

Poetry is arguably one of the most personal forms of written expression as it inherently captures the word-pictures of ones experience and imagination. The poems that comprise this collection are described in the author's note as addressing an intensely private situation that of "the writer's progression into alcoholism and approach to recovery." The author's anonymity also speaks to its delicate nature as well.

Though his arena is very specific Don's poems are not sophomoric expressions of tragedy and triumph. He is a capable wordsmith who shows a clear love of diction as a poet should. Moreover he has an obvious and deep connection to his subject even if his inner musings now transcribed need more clarity and visibility for those inhabiting the realm outside.

Often intriguing Don's verse is unfortunately not totally accessible. Sometimes meaning appears slave to form rather than a perfect marriage. He is addicted to alliteration which often threatens to cloud ideas along with strings of adjectives and lines that continually end in adverbs. Sometimes the poems are titled while other times the lack leaves them ungrounded a feeling furthered by missing capitalization and punctuation as well as excess spaces between stanzas. This is ostensibly for effect but appears more as author's visual whim. And though the author's note suggests a progression to recovery no such journey or destination is illuminated in the collection's structure. Overall the book has a hermetic feel and the nagging sense that the author is hiding too much from us.

The most successful poems come near the end and are so because they are eminently visual allowing the reader to plant herself in a place and ruminate along with the poet. "Piano Bar" makes clear the fogginess of drinking in a dark bar hearing the "voices / of the bar-shaped people" the author's "captive audience" (37) while "Matador Lounge" delivers itself from walking the line between elusiveness and mystery finally proclaiming at the end that the "elemental brutish thing" the narrator notices at the start is actually himself: "permit me / whirl to see -- / the beast is me." (38)

One standout is "Old Baileys"--an homage to Bailey's liqueur or ostensibly London's famed courthouse--Don's most simple and lucid poem unhampered by dense play with sound and word. All of his poems are near the same length often haiku-esque and this one can easily be included in its entirety: "man / and moon / and mystery / invade / the inner parts of me / bars become my destiny / I've elements of lunacy." (36) Don captures such moments best when he looks out and thus allows us in.

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Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 21, 2009
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