Joseph Zaccardi's review of Poet Wrangler: droll poems, by Marvin R. Hiemstra
Poet Wrangler: droll poems, by Marvin R. Hiemstra
“Poetry is our planetary subtext,” Marvin R. Hiemstra boldly states in his preface to Poet Wrangler: droll poems. Let then the reader feast in this poet’s language, be the prospector in search of what lies underneath the poems in this collection: authenticity and courage; discovery and satisfaction. In the opening poem, “How to Choose a Muse,” the first of a dazzling succession of transformative and multi-layered pieces, Hiemstra demonstrates his mastery of his oeuvre: “One lineup guy, stiletto goatee and a Bette Midler heart tattoo”; “Hours without even a hint of a sonnet I was about to leave, pick up an Elsa Lanchester DVD”; and “tutored in a yurt, ghost wrote / for Gandhi’s ghost.” Thus one is pre-warned as to where Hiemstra’s poems will lead: he uses allegory, sarcasm and knee-slapping humor to make his many points regarding the complaints of poets in search of their Muse. In one poem, poet frogs discuss their poetic process and preferences. Have we not heard this before from poets who have claimed writers’ block? In another poem Hiemstra uses fly fishing as a metaphor to tackle Persian formalism, “Tie a fly… snag a tasty ghazal.” Then Hiemstra asks on the penultimate line, “What kind of fly do you have on the end of your eloquent line?” I think he uses these digs and jibes to take aim at poets who cling to the romantic notion that a poet must lead a lonely life and be deprived to write good poetry, and then can’t wait to tell anyone they can corner how much they suffer, how hard it is to wait upon the fickle Muse. At the same time, Hiemsta admits this sometimes works, as in “Push It All the Way: Mountain Top or Nothing,” where the universal you poet is “burning / brighter than the Sun / waking up with a hard-on,”; “Have you been guilty / of sprung rhythm interruptus?” he asks (a nice tip-of-the-hat to Gerard Manley Hopkins), to get there. This is what Hiemstra urges poets to do: create, create, create, don’t whine! Later in the poem, “A Poet’s Handy Tool List,” he questions and answers himself, “Some poets can’t find themselves,”; “Why don’t they look in the nearest mirror?” Throughout Poet Wrangler, Hiemstra argues, cajoles and surprises us. He is indeed the wrangler taking aim and writing head-on to the poet-laggards, lollygaggers, and skylarkers; he is a buckaroo going after some of poetry’s über pretentions.
In my view of Poet Wrangler, Hiemstra’s focus is right on; he draws from the natural world of frogs and trout, dachshunds and whippets, Siberian Brown Bears, a Minotaur, giraffes, et al, as a way of explaining why those who write poetry must write poetry without apology. Hiemstra is a master of storytelling and myth expansion; he enchants and challenges us with his unique voice. Yes, he is talking to us, the poets, that strange breed, but these poems will delight any reader.
Published in Marin Poetry Center Newsletter, July 2013
Copyright ©2015 Joseph Zaccardi