A mini Marrow Review on a self-published Selected Poems (1965-2015) by Bob MacKenzie

Produced by his own imprint, Dark Matter Press, Bob Mackenzie’s selected poems called Agape: Heaven & Earth, features 174 pages divided into the titular sections. A decent size for such a lengthy span of time, MacKenzie’s output ranges from haikus to paeans, from ballads to elegies. While he states in his haiku: “never my forte/these brief delicate flowers:/Japanese poems” in fact this form is likely his most potent endeavor. His poems are sonorous with echoes of Ginsberg, Yeats, Eliot, Blake and even Birney, directly addressing the latter’s famous poem, David in his own piece, “Flying” in which each stanza but the last begins with the line: “I think of David.” I like his poem that repeats the word “grey,” imparting the effect of an etiolated world where even “the grey creature following is me,” and his filmic “Scene” where a noir mood predominates with a woman, a black sedan and “there is only the lamplight;/ there is only the soft rain./cut and print.” His most powerful longer piece is “Edge” where he invokes the above-mentioned initial trio of authors to create an incantation against injustice that repeats the nebulous, mysterious lines, “it may after all have been only a dream/it may be that I have seen nothing at all.” Although MacKenzie had two editors working on this collection, their assistance likely enabling the volume to be kept readable length-wise, they  perhaps could have guided MacKenzie towards drawing on less archaic words at times such as “lain” and “sooth,” along with more precise verbs than the over-used “filled,” particularly when it is ineffective in a line like, “Face filled with dewdrops” (spattered? spackled? speckled?). Still, for a lifetime’s work, there are evocative poems here and MacKenzie’s facility with form often enables these pieces to rise beyond their “occasional” nature into song.



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