Friday, August 10, 2007

Lawrence Raab's Probable World: A Boomer's Poetry

(Reflections on THE PROBABLE WORLD, a collection of poems by Lawrence Raab, published by Penguin Poets. It's out of print, last time I looked.)

The poet's a Baby boomer: His imagination was shaped by comic books and movies, and his poems include space aliens, mutant humanoid crab monsters, dogs, Jimi Hendrix. Reflecting on his not serving in the army, he is not proud, he writes. His poems also touch on Bosnia, terrorism, and Columbine. Also, dogs, God, Emily Dickinson, youth, a father who died early.

Lawrence Raab doesn't rhyme, and I've not always been able to find a regular metrical length to his lines, but always close to five or six stresses. On a page, his poems seem to be organized in regular stanzas of three, five, or six lines each.

His tone is wry, gentle, whimsical. Some characters recur in the poems: a dead father who was distant in life and who appears as an enigma in dreams -- the wife who wants his imagination to settle closer to home, who says that, if the truth doesn't seem probable, he's better off toning it down -- the happy dog who brings such pleasure by feeling such pleasure.

I notice how his poems often build to an image of evil or violence and then reminds us of all the times that such bad things did NOT happen.

He shows humor, verbal mastery, wide range of references, balance, and appreciation for life outside himself. One poem speaks of "Respect" for Frost and Larkin, whose poems represent them better than their bitter and selfish personalities may have deserved. He is generous, wise, and I've returned to reading his collection (and his Collected Works) again and again.

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