Poetry, exhausted by the heavy burden of sensitive emotions conjured up by dreamy sentimentalists, is found today mostly on the dusty shelves of old libraries, none of which are in Ukiah.
Today’s poems are generally the byproduct of the overactive imagination of practitioners who believe that everything should be obscured by heartfelt imagery of quasi-mystical visions of a (benign) natural world in perpetual struggle with the forces of humanity. These ingredients are usually mixed with flimsy images of dawns, moons, sunsets, and sad puddles reflecting gray images of something or other.
No wonder the art is dying, and possibly suicidal. No one reads a 21st century poet, of course, and no one would openly brag about being a professional poet, except to avoid admitting to being unemployable.
With that by way of introduction, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce Mark McGovern, an Ukiahan whom I have met several times among reading groups. He writes honest verses to Philip Larkin and may not even be afraid to call himself a poet.
McGovern’s work is quirky and straightforward, thoughtful and honest without pretension, and so of course his work should be self-published. I have his latest books, “Loose Dogs on the Freeway” and “BOOM and Other Loud Noises”.
McGovern and I see each other at Writers Read, a collection of locals who come together monthly to read and be read, loosely organized but efficiently managed by Michael Riedell and Dan Barth.
Participants read six minutes, tops, and most fill the time with amusing, confusing, or delightful material, in direct contradiction to my usual ridicule (see above), which either means the local poets are pretty good, or that I’m absolutely wrong. . Or both. Writers Read sometimes features out-of-town poets as headliners and occasional local stars, where Mr McGovern fits in.
It was Mark’s first turn at the top and he was warmly welcomed. He’s an endearing but unpolished performer, he doesn’t wear Italian moccasins or a thin mustache like most poets, but if his books start selling, maybe he will.
It is difficult to criticize poetry; extracting a few lines from a verse often does violence to the essence of what makes a poem work, but how else to convey its spark or insight?
Here, a pair of “Loose Dogs” chosen partly because they’re short, but also because they invite a glimpse into McGovern’s devious mind:
SLIP OF THE TONGUE
I let go
I like you
No news for
you or me
As we passed
A life together
It wouldn’t kill you
You hear me
Complicated is my situation
convoluted is my fate
To twist and turn and curl
And wind up in the shape of a propeller
Complex frills in their
They twirl, twirl, curl and
Spiral until I concede them
Know exactly how I feel
Still no one has yet to offer
To help me untangle these
For a copy of ‘BOOM and Other Loud Noises’ and/or ‘Loose Dogs on the Freeway’, look no further than MendoBookCo in Ukiah. Good reading.
As long as we’re all cheering, let’s listen to it for AM Radio 1400, KUKI on the dial, airing Oakland A games again this year. Tom Hine listens in when he’s not busy working on next Sunday’s column.