Reviews of Nobel Prize winner | Comments on all Shakespeare's plays | Poetry reviews | Multiple reviews of same author | Haiti books |


By David Clewell
Madison, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press, 2016
9780299307240 (pbk. alk.paper)
131 pages

Bob Corbett
May 2016

Once again I have had the delight to read a volume of David Clewell’s poetry. I’ve been a fan for some years and especially love the fact that he writes about everyday life experiences and issues in such an imaginative and unusual sense that he opens new doors, creates the need to explore the world in a larger sense that one is normally used to.

His very clever “My Brief History in Professional Wrestling” brought back fond memories for me of my quite elderly Grandmother who simply loved professional wrestling and watched it on TV all the time. She was an Arkansas farm lady and she would yell and talk to and against the wrestlers as she watched them on TV. In her Arkansas country language she would yell at the TV what a “no count” this or that wrestler was and she especially despised the very popular meanie, Gorgeous George, with his long blond locks cascading down his back and he did every dirty trick in the book to other wrestlers.

I took her to the St. Louis Arena, a short walk from our home, to see him wrestle. As he came along the runway heading for the ring with his billowing hair, Grandma, who was sitting in the seat against the side railing, reached over the railing and grabbed and yanked his golden locks. He lurched and yelled in shock and ushers came running. Grandma just looked at him and said of his hair: “Lordy, it’s real hair!” People and even Gorgeous George began to laugh and he asked the ushers to let the lady be. Nonetheless, she always viewed him as a great villain!

“The JFK Assassination Deluxe Diorama Kits are Here!”

This is a masterful summary of both known facts, but more importantly, long lists of suspected and/or claimed facts and their many, many contradictions. I came away from the poem a bit breathless and a good-deal hopeless that the truth of JFK’s assassination will ever be known.

The “Final Caution” seemed to me especially insightful:

“Final Caution:

Some assembly required – okay some considerable assembly
Do not force pieces together. Do not force pieces into place.
Some parts are incredibly small and by all means
Should be kept out of the reach of children – as should
the official conclusions of the Warren Commission Report
which, if swallowed, constitute an even greater choking hazard.”

I’m definitely a sucker for a good story well told. I’ll have to list Clewell’s poem “In 1963 I Had To Write A Thousand Words” as a simply stunning story, but one of many that are fewer than 1,000 words. It is creative, funny, challenging, and nostalgic – I could go on to nearly a thousand more adjectives of praise.

This poem is followed up by another poem on his grade school days which is delightful and dazzling, “In 1966 Debbie Fuller Was Sweet on Pluto” that features the appearance of Debbie Fuller, a sort of idealized grade school sweet heart.

I found the poem “In The Extreme” to be simply hilariously funny. He first talks of things that are extremes:

“feast or famine . . .
hell or high water . . .
all or nothing…”

But it came together for him with old fashioned bathroom sinks so many of us grew up with the hot water faucet which had on one side and the cold on the other.

“I found out early on
that neither one of those alone was going to suffice so I tried
flitting my hands back and forth pausing in the middle,
hoping for anything easier to weather – not-so-tropical heat,
not-so-icy Artic Circle, but no compromise seemed possible.”

I was just howling with laughter as I remembered trying to solve that conundrum as a young boy.

“My Father’s Wholehearted Mixed Message” is a delightful and rather un-Clewell-like poem. It’s actually sentimental! He almost “shows” that he trying to stay witty, though in this poem he’s never sassy. Yet it is really a very touching recognition of what a wonderful father he had. I was moved and also loved the poem.

My goodness, and then follows the semi-sentimental poem, a legitimate love poem for his wife, “Even after all this time, I’d like to have a word with you” whose subtitle is: “for who else but Patricia.”

Then Clewell simply blew me away with a third-in-a-row sentimental poem this time about his son, Ben’s first date.

My goodness I’m very touched by this side of David Clewell, which I’ve not had much experience.

Later on his poem in memory of fellow poet and close friend, Donald Finkel, is gentle, soft, loving and deeply touching, a tribute by which Donald Finkel would be truly moved.

Clewell’s poem about jazz man Rahsaan Roland Kirk is deeply touching and powerful. It is told by a young boy who had not only sold Rahsaan a hat before his concert, but was then given the hat during the concert. A very touching poem!

Once again I have come to the end of a volume of David Clewell’s poems just wanting more, and very happily I happened to have yet one OTHER relatively new volume of his poetry which I hope to read in the very near future.

Bob Corbett


Becoming Reading Thinking Journals


Bob Corbett