Dec 3, 2009

At the Threshold of Alchemy by John Amen

the woman in the shower (Page 36)

the woman in the shower washes herself constantly and never ages.  she
scrubs her nails, shampoos her hair, lathers her body.  she's attractive, and
many serenade her, offering love songs in various languages.  newspapers
send interviewers to ascertain her greater mission.  she receives letters from
admirers around the world.  political and religious leaders pay a visit.  a few
crazies try to break into the shower stall and molest the woman, but guards
throw them out.  one man masturbates, shooting his seed onto the glass
before he is arrested.  nothing, though, distracts or fazes the woman in the
shower.  she keeps lathering and scrubbing and rinsing.  generations pass;
the woman is considered a saint of sorts, her shower stall a mecca.  it's 
assumed, finally, that the woman in the shower, the woman who never 
stops washing, has always been, always will be.  she's a timeless fact, like air
or war or hunger or god.

At the Threshold of Alchemy by John Amen conjures profound statements about the human condition often from unusual or incongruous elements in nature, pop culture, and religion.  Many of these poems comment on the darker side of humanity, and the narrator tends to seek out destruction and mischief.  There are some longer poems in the collection that could become tedious for certain readers, but taken in slowly -- one section at a time -- readers can delve deeper into the verse.

". . . Mary plants clematis and bougainvillea.
I'm writing ballads on a '71 Gibson.  We're purchasing
mulch, two tons of soil.  We're collecting ripe moments,"  (Portraits of Mary, Page 43)

Vivid images and situations permeate these pages, and Amen is a poet prepared to comment on the taboo or the elephant in the room.  Several poems titled "missive" address unknown recipients and offer harsh criticisms in which the sarcastic undertones is palpable.

"Had I known you were more concerned with baubles
than the outcomes of the election, I'd have planned
to craft a wreath for the occasion.  Bless tabloids
and puppet governments, I take my salvation as
I can get it."  (Missive #12, Page 68)

Musical elements also weave their way into the poems, much like they did in Amen's More of Me Disappears (click for my review).  Entwined with these musical lines, readers will note an atmosphere of self-deprecation created by the narrator's repentance or observations.

"Forgive me for eating this bountiful meal.
Forgive me for sleeping beneath this roof.
Forgive me for making love to my wife.
Forgive me for everything I fail to see and do
and avenge.  Forgive me for this insular life."  (Rampage, Page 24) 

At the Threshold of Alchemy by John Amen is a collection that readers will need to let simmer, breathing in each line like an exotic incense.  Readers can read each poem in this collection more than once and still uncover new layers of meaning.  From short poems to long poems, this collection has a variety to please a multitude of readers. 

***On a side note, At the Threshold of Alchemy is published on acid-free, recycled paper.***  Ever since the Green Books Campaign, I've been keeping a watchful eye on my books to see what their "green" properties may be.

FTC Disclosure:  I received a free copy of At the Threshold of Alchemy from the poet John Amen for review.  Additionally, title and image links will bring readers to my Amazon Affiliate page; no purchases are necessary, but are appreciated to cover the costs of international giveaway shipping.

I read this book as part of the recent Thankfully Reading Weekend Challenge.  Did you participate?  Which books did you read?  I only read two.

This also qualifies as my 8th book for the Poetry review challenge.


Anna said...

"Wow" is all I can say about the poem you included at the start of your review. Very interesting.

I like dark topics, so this might be a good one for me to try, but I'm not so sure about that Mary poem you told me goes on for numerous pages. Still, his poetry is my kind of poetry. LOL

Great review!

Diary of an Eccentric

Serena said...

Anna: I think you should give it a try! It was a very interesting collection. However, I think I liked More of Me Disappears slightly more.

DCMetroreader said...

The lyrical prose looks inviting, but I agree with Anna that I'm unsure of poetry that spans several pages.

Serena said...

DCMetroReader: Some poetry is well written in longer forms. This is one of them, but I have an attention issue, so those were hardest for me, though there really was only the one that gave me the most trouble.

Staci said...

I like reading your posts about poetry...I can tell that you enjoy it!!

Serena said...

Staci: I'm glad that you enjoy reading my reviews. I hope that these reviews will inspire people to read more poetry.