Here’s the thing about January’s Just Poets featured reader Robert McDonough: still waters run deep. Here’s this pedigreed poet (Boston College, MA and PhD from NYU, nearly 40 years teaching English) hitching up his suspenders, scratching at his burly beard, engaging in the small stories between his poems that make his eyes sparkle. Then comes his tranquil delivery, like the kind of dialogue you hope to have with a friend on a country stroll. His poems take you through his subtle insight, always an observer, always enough distance to pause and ponder at the small things that encapsulate the big (life, death, love, old friends…). His poem: “The Playground” from his book: No Other World (Cleveland State University Poetry Center) was a beautiful reflection on parenting and life offered in a child’s toss of a handful of dirt.
McDonough is an observer par excellence. His poems can be seemingly disarming. Not so. One just needs to let it soak in. And in “Humping the Muse,” McDonough’s run at writer’s block, and “Universal Rejection Note,” there’s plenty of wit for all. He is a serious learner, a damn good poet, and no doubt a pleasure to take a walk with.
The open mic portion brought out some new voices as well as some familiar work. JP member Jim Jordan offered a poem I especially liked named “Horse on Vacation” about a working pony on an island. Maril Nowak took a political bite with her poem “Sizzle” which was “bigly” witty. New member Jack Spula, read his very Whitmanesque nature observations. David Michael Nixon read two new ones: “Let It Bleed Johnny” and “The Necessary Voice”, and a longer piece centered on a relationship, entitled: “Builders and Wreckers” with the opening line: ‘Well there’s not much to say constructively…” Roy Bent read a striking piece: “Riddle,” that sears the sometimes harsh father-son entanglements. Bart White, borrowing from poet Bill Heyen’s short “poemlet” technique, offered up two versions of “Geraniums”. David Delaney read a new piece called “The Graveyard Shift”, and newcomer Mitch Valente read his lovely poem “The Empty Window,” an optimistic reflection on time. Host David Yockel closed out with two: one still untitled, and the other “Beyond Survival” which again proves why people should come out to hear poetry.
Next Month (February 8th) Just Poets Featured Reader: Dwain Wilder.
Review by David Delaney