FIRST LITERARY REVIEW-EAST
The Wolf Inside
(Hearing Eye, 2014)
Reviewer: Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
"Spaced out and dreamy" could be how you'll feel after reading a poem or two by Donald Gardner, although the writing itself is clear. Beginning with a thought or a theme, the poet unspools insightful vignettes, polished and pitch-perfect. They fit like kid gloves. From the "wolf inside" to a street-naming ceremony to a reflection on "Retirement Benefits," he'll connect directly.
Always engaging, Gardner's voice is intimate and entertaining. Philosophic and lyric by turns, he propels the poems in shapely stanzas. He plays his part well - a poet living in a magical city (mostly Amsterdam) spinning a fabulous "tale."
When I am taking on board more than I can bale
my tale is baleful if I've a tale at all.
Fauna is one of his subjects. The poem called "In Alder Thicket" begins:
Choreography of kingcups
splayed out as if flung
by a hand
across the strip of meadow by the pool
where the ducks wait
their turn . . .
Here, the poet seeks refuge—to commune with his inner self—as is the poet's wont. And he shares the experience with us, outlining how he ritualistically sheds the layers of life's mortal coil to strip down to its essence and render it into verse.
The city of Amsterdam is a winning backdrop and reinforces the Objectivist streak in Gardner, as he finds inspiration in things and places like the Haarlemmerdijk and a moonrise "on the far side of Westerdok."
In skillful depictions, the quotidian becomes exotic and more importantly, a metaphoric canvas. Gardner's narrative ruminations can also stray into invented scenarios. In addition to addressing regular situations, he also proposes imaginary ones such as meeting his former self or housing a ghost.
This poet has honed a persona that is remarkable for its unique combination of depth and lightness. Now, after more than four decades of publishing, he's playing "the last set" of tennis with death while leaving a "cheerful grin." After reading this book, Donald Gardner will feel like a dear old friend.
Jeffrey Cyphers Wright is a New Romantic sonneteer. He studied with Ted Berrigan and Alice Notley at St. Mark's Church. After studying with Allen Ginsberg (who wrote an introduction for his second book) at Brooklyn College, Wright received his MFA in poetry. Publisher and editor, he currently runs Live Mag! http:www.livemagnyc.com. A column of Wright's poetry criticism called Rapid Transit appears regularly in The Brooklyn Rail. Wright's graffiti-based collages have been included in several group shows. His latest book of poems is Triple Crown, published by Spuyten Duyvil.