Author: Ernest Dempsey: Edited with an “Afterword” by M. Stefan Strozier, ISBN 978-1-934209-23-3
Storm Warning, Safe Harbor, and “Breakers Leeward!”
This fabulous collection of poetry swirls through an archipelago of potential moorings. Readers can take each composition as an insular excursion, in itself, or they can sail the spaces between the poems for an expedition into questions of meaning and perspective, a voyage that has been traditionally reserved for the philosopher of the linguistic bent. But a poet can quickly change magnitudes, abandon the unsolvable, and sharply focus on images or horizons that an essayist must present in orderly, if abstract, prose.
A chain of islands is a complex place. Over there, an island might be a Tahitian haven, offering colorful diversions--if only illusory and temporary--from the absolute authority behind maritime discipline. But here, a desert island might prove an isolating penance to endure in extremes of need and want, marooned by a situation not much unlike what has become known as the “human condition.” Ernest Dempsey is quite nimble in jumping between the “here” and the “over there” and other such things an island might mean. A part of his magic hides in the way he sweeps a reader along, remaining unburdened by rules of transitional digression and giving his passenger few warnings about what lurks a few fathoms deeper.
During my more careful re-reading, I seem to have lost my life preserver. I know I still had it for “A Tale.”I thought that I must have worn it through “A Mother’s Plea” for peace, space and time enough to become, herself, the criminal subject of the poem. There, an island was both a refuge from a raging sea, and an isolated sandbar vulnerable to the tides and storms. I must have worn a life preserver there!
Perhaps I took it off to chuckle at the wordplay between the Promethian revolutionary and the timid administrator, God. But I would have grabbed it in haste for “All Fair,” that island where we wonder about the notion of ethical pardon, excused by the extremes of passion. But when “the quiet veil was rent, the tongue was reft of speech, and …the web of thread was torn…” I must have had a life preserver there at the end of all belief, the situation Herman Melville called the “intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore” (Moby Dick Ch. 23). If not there, then where?
We will each have a favorite poem among the assortment. The existentialist may linger over “Islands of Illusion,” while the politically apprehensive poststructuralist may gently deconstruct “Red Dust.” VERY gently now! The pragmatist will enjoy “Wallflower?” And the materialist will vie with the stoic over the many puns and the most central of the themes. But my own favorite poem in this collection, “Unnamed Swagger” describes a thoughtful decision to choose the path of free thought in a world growing less tolerant of free thinkers each day.
Despite the inconvenience of one lost life preserver, I enjoyed the voyages contained in Islands of Illusions. These are cerebral poems, topically affiliated with contemporary discussions underway in graduate-level philosophy seminars. But the verse is crafted in an accessible style that will be relished by bright and informed readers from coffee houses to living rooms. We should expect to hear much more from this talented, young poet.
The above r eview was contributed by: Joe Petrulionis: Joe reads, writes, and teaches the history of ideas and he emphasizes the political and cultural context in which these philosophical, scientific, and artistic notions emerge. Joe has a recent Masters Degree in History and is in recovery from a previous career and graduate specialty in finance and economics. To read more of Joe's reviews CLICK HERE
Click Image Below To Find Out More About Islands of Illusion (Note: May Not Work With All Browsers)
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