I find poetry difficult to criticize since generally a review is supposed to present an opinion on how worthwhile a thing may be. What criteria may I evaluate? What makes a successful piece of poetic art?
Well, suppose I say that the highest aim art may shoot for is to ponder the deepest questions, to question the sacred, the profane, and to present essential fragments of truths. If deep truths are unavailable to capture, then to consider existence and probe fundamental experiences would be next in line. I can polarize this by setting up a continuum from such universal deep art as opposing egotistical, personal self-indulgence.
With my questions and grading device selected I turn to my book of poetry, hand delivered to me by the author himself– a dutiful gentleman. The Sun Has Forgotten Where I Live by Christan McPherson is a nicely produced paperback. The cover captures a sense of dirty sheets and plastic self-loathing, yet there is a peace in the imagery. We see a man sitting on the edge of a bed, looking down past his right knee, holding a lit cigarette in his left fingers, his left palm cradling his left cheek, while his right arm crosses his body to cradle his left knee– a protective or vulnerable posture. He is leaning, resting on his elbows upon his knees, his back to the bed. On the bed in the background, out of focus, is an inflatable sex doll. The light in the room seems to imply the morning after. He seems to be in thought, perhaps morose, quietly wondering how he came to be where he is, and lost in his memory or pondering whatever might be in the future. The cover conveys the poetry in the book quite well. McPherson's poems often capture moments in time, especially evoking the past, and the pondering of existential questions thread throughout.
From “Landing” until “Life Sentence,” I found myself led through captured moments, snapshots of time, and slices of space. There is a simplicity, an elegance in the flow of words, that the author presents. He pens his questions about the meaning of life through his presentation of moments. Occasionally the existential questions are explicit, yet always there is this reflection — of the spectre of time and aging, comparison between childhood and adulthood, between the author and his father, between his experience and another person's. I can connect with the author's words through finding similarity to my own existential questions, to my own confusion and darkness when living life through the lens of time. There is a poem in the middle of the book called “Snapshot” that reveals the author's impression of his work taken as pictures, stills of emotion and various kinds of considering.
So, I say this book of poetry is a worthwhile read for those who enjoy poetry and seek poems written as emotional meditations and reflected moments. McPherson's poems here seem of a kind that makes his personal events available for others to ponder, to see how life experience evokes the deep questions.
The Sun Has Forgotten Where I Lived will be launched at Collected Works on April 16th at 7 pm.