By Susan Rieke
A book of poems
61 pages
BK-MK Press: Kansas City, Mo., 1990
ISBN # 0-933532-72-5

Comments of Bob Corbett
November 2010

This small book of poems is well named, the bulk of the poems are eight lines or fewer, and often poem Susan Rieke captures a thoughtful notion, insight or feeling those lines. She writes about many topics, some quite abstract, many tiny moments of everyday life to which she gives life, breath and importance.

There are several which cluster around the death of either a family member, or close friend, Otto. These begin with his death and then a number which are follow-up feelings and thoughts. That section was quite well done.

There were two poems about the nature of writing poetry which particularly captured my attention and delighted me:

Write two perfect lines, that's enough,
The precise metaphor, an exact sound
Or rhythm catch. What you write does
Not require verbiage; no, in two

Perfect lines you can capture the English
Language; you can make perfect
Poetry with few words. But write,
Aim to find, die to produce two lines.
My writing is sick. Verbs limp across the page
And will not carry their load. The nouns
Are pale. They make no sounds together.
It has all gone to disease. I need a strong dose

Of Roethke; I need a trip through his far field.
Oh, the bigger problem: Stagnant, I
Have no feeling, insight, or flow of words. I
Am sick. It is not my poor verbs and nouns.

I especially loved “Writing” since it capture so succinctly but marvelously the notion that one cannot write great poetry with form alone or even dominantly. It takes content and ideas.

In addition to the set of “Otto” poems, there is another significant set that are set in Ireland, but which seem related to the “Otto” set because they seem to have been written on a trip to visit family in Ireland who also knew Otto.

Until the last set of poems, section III, I had mainly enjoy and been moved by many of Rieke’s poems. The last set, however, were a disappointment for me. They were nature poems and I found them to be rather trite and without the power and personality of the earlier poems.

Despite my disappointment with the last set, the other two sets were more than justification for my read, and I delighted in many of those poems sensing a poet who has deep feelings and reflects carefully on the nature of the human experience.

Bob Corbett



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