Thursday, December 12, 2019

Star Kites: Poems & Versions

Star Kites: Poems & VersionsStar Kites: Poems & Versions by Mark Valentine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've never confirmed the rumor, but my mom used to tell me that she was related to Alfred, Lord Tennyson through her father's line - second cousins or somesuch. Mom always did have a poetic streak in her, in fact she used to recite poems - some of them quite long - from memory. I've had a few poems published, but I am, at heart, a short-story writer. While poesis doesn't flow in my blood, it is like a distant cousin to me: I see the resemblance and feel familiar in its presence, but I don't spend enough time with it to have developed a truly deep relationship with it, more dilettante than expert.

I do, however, appreciate a good poetic voice. Valentine's own poems here are good and, at times, brilliant. His "versions," in which he mimics others' poetic voices, like a starling with a pen, are, on the whole, several shades darker and more textured. And I will be the first to admit that trying to mimic another writer's voice without sounding "tinny" is no small feat. These warrant repeated readings. The short biographies of the poets who inspired the "versions" are intriguing reading, in and of themselves, a sort of biographical-poetry, if not in form, then in function.

The best poetry, to me, not only titillates the imagination, but draws forth emotion from between the words, from the interstices of the reader's own brain. All great writing does this, whatever the form, but a poem that can do so with an enforced paucity of words is something special.

Valentine's "We leave . . ." (one of his originals, not a "version") is one such poem. You might guess that it caused me to think deeply, with great love and appreciation for my deceased parents, as well as on the effect I might have on others when it is my time to go:

We Leave . . .

We leave
in others' memories
that do not change,
though they may blur.

How many
carry us

The child that was you
may exist for years
as a face,
as a question,
until at last extinguished.

A chance meeting
may be replayed
quite often
by someone
you have forgotten:
they have kept you.

Something you said
may still be heard,
your words
by one you think
you barely knew.

Another may have caught
your face in repose
or full of light
to help them
go towards
the night.

In my gallery,
amongst others:
old fingers twist
a piece of lace;
a boy's blond hair
stands on end; and
a voice whispers

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