Poetry pick: American Ghost Roses

Years ago I read the poem “Upon Witnessing My Mother Impossibly Blossom Above My Father’s Deathbed” and was smitten with it. Am smitten with it. The play of proverbs and homonyms against the heartbreaking image of the speaker’s parents, as he looks on from the side. I knew that it was by Kevin Stein, and finally I looked it up and learned that it was included in his collection American Ghost Roses. I’ll admit, I was a little nervous. What would the rest of the poems in the book be like? How could they possibly live up to that poem?

With honesty, with restraint, with humor, and with music, the balance of empathy and observation at the intersection of image and story.

After reading this book, I wondered how I could do these poems justice here, or come close.

I want to tell you about the Drano poems, “Adolescent Hemlock” and “In the House of Being.” I want to tell you about “An American Tale of Sex and Death” and “Valentine’s Day Boxing at the Madison County Jail”–each of which look at race from the perspective of white privilege and being at the wrong place at the wrong time (on many levels, in many ways). And so many more–on the lighter side: “Etiquette and Epiphany in the Post-Workshop Men’s Room” and “To Bob Marley’s Toe.” Plus “Kandinsky on Concerning the Spiritual in Art” and “Thinking of Kandinsky While Shaving My Father.”

In this book, Stein spans youth and age, coming of age and dying–all of it human.


P.S. My apology for the delayed posting. I was out of town. This will happen again throughout the summer.