Hiram Larew’s UNDONE, Reviewed by Dan Cuddy

cover Hiram Larew bookHiram Larew, UNDONE, FootHills Publishing, Kanona, NY 14856, 2019, ISBN: 978-0-931053-11-5 44 pages, $10.00

Hiram Larew’s poetry is enchanted with imaginative language. His voice is unique and it varies in idiom, pitch and timbre from poem to poem. The imagery, the metaphors often are unpredictable to the logical mind, but they are valid if you climb on the poet’s imagination and explore with him as the poem unfolds. An example?

From this far away
The Civil War and Revolutionary War
Seem like custard to me
That’s not to minimize the horrors
But it is to say that I have learned to accept my aging face
……and all the sweets that come with ghostings

The poem doesn’t stay there but turns a couple of times. The historical imagination is intertwined with the issues of aging, but not in a morose way. Larew transforms everything he expresses. Here is the rest of the poem titled “Custard.” It demonstrates the poet’s leaps of emotion. The language is rich with ambience and inner experience.

It’s to say I’ve been like muskets along the way
……and now feel like ambushed sparks
I’ve also bandaged ooze and piped whistles
……and any more I listen hard to whatever great-
……grandfathers growl from bed
……whenever they want to
I’ve held West Virginia in my arms as any maiden
……aunt would
……and I’ve tasted puddings
……and smelled cornfields
Nothing else surrounds my years as such knowing does
Nothing else silhouettes my insides as candles can
……and surely nothing will ever race down my ravines
Hat in hand
……like these chills do.

This magic poet can take the most banal of cliché’s and create amazing pronouncements and insights. Here is “Time Zones”—–

Instant isn’t enough
……and simultaneous is so poor
Once upon a time is clueless
Here we go again seems so what
Toujours mon amour means hardly
Hippety dippety hop not
Who is that? is way too late
……and better late than never lies through its teeth
From beyond the grave can’t decide
Repeat after me is silly
Over the moon makes no sense
And to kingdom come just came and went.
Most of all right here right now
Never happens.

Larew’s poetry demands to be read slowly. There is rhythm, and a quick read will capture that, and the play of vowels and consonants too, but each line is a little burst of creative energy. Unexpected phrases, like “Startle my stir” in the poem “Covery”, are prevalent throughout the book. Poetry lovers should dive in this book and swim its length. The dominant feeling of the book as a whole, no matter what the subject of the many poems, is joy. You have to take delight in what this masterful poet does with language. Okay, sometimes you may not exactly understand it, but you will feel the insight, the texture of the emotion. Often you will be amazed. One stanza of the poem “the Power of Poetry” reads

If you should ever encounter a poem that makes you
jump, ask yourself why. Most likely, the answer—if there
is one—will be so far-fully inside you that your
ancestors will wink.

© Hiram Larew and Dan Cuddy

Hiram Larew‘s work has appeared in many journals, books and collections, most recently in vox poetica, American Contemporary Voices, Every Day Poems, Seminary Ridge Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, Honest Ulsterman, Voices Israel, A New Ulster, Viator, Huntington Post’s Thrive Global, and Shot Glass.  His fourth collection, Undone, was published by FootHills Publishing in December, 2018.   Nominated for four national Pushcart prizes and winner of first place poetry prizes from Louisiana Literature, The Washington Review and The Southern Poetry Society, he is a member of the Shakespeare Folger Library’s Poetry Board, and organizes lots of events in the Greater National Capitol Region that showcase the wonderful diversity of poetic voices in the Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
On Facebook at “Hiram Larew, Poet,” “The Poetry Poster Project,” and “Poetry X Hunger.”
Retired from the federal government, Larew is a global hunger expert with courtesy faculty appointments at the University of Georgia, Oregon State University, Baylor University and Montana State University. He lives in Upper Marlboro, MD and is string-bean tall.

Dan Cuddy is currently an editor of the Loch Raven Review. He has been published in many small magazines , e.g, Antioch Review, Free State Review, Iguana ReviewThe Potomac, Connections, L’Allure des Mots, Broadkill Review, End of 83.  His book Handprint On The Window was published by Three Conditions Press.

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