The Tower Journal
BOOK REVIEW



ask anyone
Ruth Lepson

  • 978-1-940396-17-0
  • 60 pages
    $12.50

    Purchase this book from:
    Small Press Distribution


    This collection provides a series of  poems that offer a tour of existence.  Do we pursue life in the shadow of others' perceptions, or do we lay claim to our own intepretation of the world around us.  The title of this volume, itself, "ask anyone,"  taken from a line in the first poem of the series, refers to the human need to go along with what others perceive. The final poem in the series, "really, creeley" re-echoes that theme, wondering what Creeley would do were he alive now. In the poem, the narrator visits Creeley's grave and addresses him directlly, mentioning that a tour that goes through Mt. Auburn Cemetery now includes a stop by  his grave.


      I ask if you enjoy

    the english landscape in


    mt auburn cemetery

    where we walk and where

    they put you on the tour


    even in death

    you're on the tour


    my my


    The above tour not only takes place in the gated yard of the dead, it also passes through the land of the living. The poems in this collection offer the reader/tourist images that present the world in pieces the mind longs to put together. For example, in the poem "of all the books," the first person narrator leaves a museum and sees everything in the world as part of a painting.


      when I left the museum
    everything was a painting
    one painting

    hundreds of tiny paintings
    the guard rail on the highway reflecting
    the towers of pollution   the tiny hands



    Further imagery: a brave hummingbird, a terrified dolphin, an ignored person in a wheelchair, an unforgiving meter maid, a person pushing against a skyscraper, offers the panoply of human emotions experienced by all of us on life's tour.


      the seriousness of dark green
    dusk goes on three or four hours
    thunder and lightning no rain
    the tick tock of anxiety



    Rhythm and rhyme appear and disappear along the way in this collection because the metaphysical/physical tour is not regulated. Take for example this anapestic line with internal rhyme from the poem "after reading camus' the stranger."


      the wisteria climbs  only trailer vines


    Note also the end rhyme in the final two lines of this stanza

      terrified though seemingly the size of a white whale
    the dolphin drinks the waves in
    his round face and round eyes live in startle land
    his tail ends with what looks like a webbed foot
    the sailors passing the steamboat out of which come
    spirals of smoke
    can see that   for you   life is no joke

    And notice the playful irregular rhythm and rhyme in this first stanza from "I dreamt I was an armadillo."

      I dreamt I was an armadillo
    radiant and plain
    wilhelm reich would've said
    I was armored
    he was insane


    With occasional friskiness and a command of technique, this collection of poems offers varied deights for the reader.  There even seems to be a small calligram, a la Apollinaire, at the end of the poem "diffidence."

      what's a bird but a bird &

                     attention
       a search
                     migration


    Do the last three lines above take on the familiar patterns of migrating birds in flight?

    Ruth Lepson, who has been poet-in-residence at the New England Conservatory of Music for over twenty years, is an important contemporary poet.  Ask anyone!  I highly recommend this collection of poems. It will keep your bedside light on longer than you anticipated while you flip through life's metaphysical travel guide.

    — Reviewed by Mary Ann Sullivan
         11/5/2017

     
     


    The Tower Journal
    Fall/Winter 2017