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Julie Doe

Request for a Normal Life: A Poet Waits - Brian Behnke

This was a long collection that took me a while to get through. The product page says that the poems in this book were written by a gentleman who passed away a number of years ago and were collected and published by his family members. Unfortunately, that shows.

First the good: the author definitely has an ear for the sounds and rhythm of language. More than once I got caught up in lovely lines or turns of phrase.

However, upon going back and rereading for meaning, often times lines did not hang together as a whole poem. Images or lines sometimes seemed randomly strung together with no overall cohesive theme. And a string of unrelated images or ideas does not make good poetry in my opinion.

Some poems also seemed more complete and finished than others. Some poems rambled or had lots of short choppy phrases and punctuation at odd points; these read a lot like first drafts to me and that is why I mentioned editing in the title of my review. Much of the imagery was also quite conventional and not fresh and interesting.

The poems also sometimes make use of oddly old-fashioned language--such as "doth", "thou", "thy"; this is not "Old English" (or even Middle English) as claimed in the product info--it is simply language from 200 to 400 years ago is at odds with sounds and sensibility of contemporary poetry.

Since this book is self-published, I'll address the publishing mechanics a bit. The font and size chosen makes for an easy and readable layout. However, the beginning matter is missing completely; there is no title page or copyright notice. Next comes an "index", which should really be called the "Table of Contents" as it is a listing on the poems in the order they appear in the book. There are also no page numbers anywhere in book. Very frustrating. Finally, the poems are, for the most part, in alphabetical order (by title) with no thought to grouping by theme or in any sort of progression. This isn't so much a concern in the shorter collections I have read and reviewed recently, but this book is 176 pages according to the product page. The presentation seems hastily and sloppily put together.

So overall, I think the poet had potential, and it's too bad he passed away at such an early age and was unable to continue to develop his poetry. However, I can't really recommend this book at this price unless you happened to know the poet and want a keepsake.