Saturday, March 29, 2008

THERE ARE WORDS by BURT KIMMELMAN

LAUREL JOHNSON Reviews

There Are Words by Burt Kimmelman
A chapbook and CD of the poet reading the book
(Dos Madres, Loveland, OH, 2007)

Burt Kimmelman has four previously published books of poetry and two book-length literary studies. He is a Professor of English at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His work here is vital, rich with imagery and ekphrastic contemplations. Regarding ekphrasis -- the skill of writing a poem based on art -- consider “Edvard Munch’s Despair, 1892:”
He is looking over the rail
of the promenade, but he sees
nothing, caught in the thought of the
helpless -- no, not even a thought --

despair itself, as undefined
as the dark, thick brushstrokes, the stabs
of green paint below his blank face.
People walk and talk together,

out of earshot, making plans, while
the red sky, its long cloudless arcs,
surges above blue hills hugging
the sea, its ships making their way.

Kimmelman shows readers simple places kissed with rain or lit by sun, alive with colorful flowers. This excerpt from “House, Normandy” is one example:
The bee bends to
the thistle. The
chestnut tree lets

go of its fruit.
We cling to the
late summer night.

“Taking Dinner to My Mother” is a touching reverie of the poet’s past and present, a circle of life beautifully shared in this excerpt:

I help her to the table in slow, small

steps, a pas de deux I have carried on,
I realize, for almost sixty years, and
I think of how, some time before, I held
my daughter’s hands, bent over, as she learned
how to walk -- the fact of balance, which we
live with until it abandons us -- and
how my mother, in a photograph, held
me in the same way.

And he dreams philosophically of death in “The Waves:”
The world of the dead
must be like that realm where dreams hold

the living, where we come and go,
breathing stars.


This is a chapbook any reader can understand and relate to. Kimmelman’s work is intensely personal, yet accessible. These are poems crafted lovingly, one word and line at a time.

*****

Laurel Johnson is a Retired Registered Nurse and the author of four books. She is Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review and Review Editor for New Works Review. Her poetry and prose can be found online in various literary e-zines. She lives in Kansas with her husband of forty-plus years.

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