Reviewed by Jon Stone
TITLE: Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems
AUTHOR: Harry E. Gilleland Jr.
PRICE: $13.00 (US)
POINT OF SALE: http://www.lulu.com/harry
SAMPLE POEMS: www.musesreview.org
'Poetry' is an odd word. The blurb to 'Storoems and Poems' promises writing that is 'for all readers, both poetry lovers and those who do not usually read poetry', while the author, in his bio, is said to be 'passionate about his poetry'. A quick recky onto Gilleland's Lulu site unearths quite a few fellow enthusiasts (albeit mostly friends and family,) who in turn salute his 'great poetry'. I do feel, however, that in this case, the word 'poetry' means something like 'genial reflections and thoughts of a respectable and warm-hearted human being, laid out in simple rhyme'. As a poetry enthusiast (i.e. I buy more books of poetry than I do novels, or CD's, or socks, or pretty much anything else,) I did find the book lacking in what I've come to expect from poetry.
It is strange to me, for instance, to find Gilleland crediting himself with the creation of the 'storoem' (a hybrid between a story and a poem,) without any mention of narrative poems or prose poems, which are, in different ways, the same thing. There are very few poetic techniques employed throughout the book. There is a great deal of rhyme, though it is sometimes forced, and a grasp of iambic and trochaic rhythms. There are welcome touches of enjambement too, and sometimes personification (a continent 'stumbles' in the acrostic 'AFRICA'). But I found original metaphors and similes very scarce, and the dominant form of the book is four line stanzas, rhymed ABAB, which does become tiresome. There is no strictly formal poetry in here (by which I mean no sonnets, triolets, villanelles, rondeaus, sestinas or the like,) and no real experimentation with language.
Of course, poetry isn't all about technique. But in terms of content too, I did find it hard to be moved. There is condemnation of genocide and despair at war, but it feels strangely second-hand for an author who served as a captain in Vietnam, while many of the interesting stories about animals are, at the poet's own confession, based entirely on wildlife documentaries. I was eager for some expert insights into the natural world (Gilleland was Professor of Microbiology at Louisiana State University,) but found myself disappointed. Much of the philosophy too, while sound, is age old common sense rather than visionary.
That said, I think we need to take the book on its merits. Gilleland is not, after all, competing for quite the same audience as Carol Ann Duffy. Indeed, it's unlikely his fans are into modern poetry in quite the same way as I understand it. His character comes through strongly in the book, and he is, quite obviously, a gentle and intelligent man with both a sense of humour and a childlike sense of wonder. His stories are good fun, and the subjects ranging. He is also quite free of malice, pretentiousness and ill-thought out political opinions. Reading his poems is rather like spending some time in his company, and I can certainly think of worse things to do.
10/10 Molly’s Reviews
10/10 Muses Review
AVERAGE RATING: 8.5/10