The Life Force Poems

by Gerald Locklin. 205 pages. Water Row Press, P.O. Box 438 Sudbury, MA. 01776.

Book Review by

As I have come to know Gerald Locklin’s poetry these past half dozen years or so, I have grown found of their easy rolling lines and Locklin’s quick wit and his ability to find the ironic is so many of our everyday situations. This book delivers the pizza and salad and Chinese food to the doorstep. And you don’t have to tip! But I must now write that this book of poetry moved me, moved me to an other place I might call sublime. It is more than just a book of poems. The Life Force Poems is a ruby in the turban of the master. I must write that it is a masterwork, his best big collection and perhaps his best collection most of forever and ever. It is supberb. Locklin, it seems to me, has found that place in poetry where the poem itself as an entity gives way to essence. The world does not get into this poetry or get in the way. The works are so refined that the poetry hovers above the poems. This poetry is a world. He begins this collection with a group of poems about the works and life of Van Gogh. Van Gogh is probably one of only a handful of artists whose work is recognized by the crowd. They might know Pollack, maybe. They probably have some sense of what a Picasso looks likes. Probably Michelangleo and De Vinci - but they don’t count - too old. And I am sure lots of folk know Warhol’s soup cans. The old timers were just religion. The others - modern art - I don’t get it. You have heard it. What is it? But Van Gogh! He is, as Kenneth Rexroth once pointed out is some review of Van Gogh’s letters to Theo, Van Gogh was or is - yes IS- the only painter people recognize, that people really love. It is the people part of that real love that Locklin has captured. His poetry is totally intoxicating and seducing and pulls one into its center as would a Van Gogh flower suck you into its heart as if you, dear reader, were some drunken, stumbling Bachus bee reveling a reveler in the pollen and honey of this bowkay. Now, some of you I am sure remember the Locklin poems and prose of heavy drinking and the wild, high life. That’s gone. In its stead there is art and jazz, which Locklin consumes like cans of beer and bottles of cream sherry. At poetic art, at heart, Locklin is a sensualist and his poems spring from the heightened states of life. He is stimulated to art by art and moved deep to create. In one of his Van Gogh poems Locklin writes about the young art student Van Gogh observing his fellows art students drawing the stuff of life but they were drawing it as if it were dead. When I read some poems, about life and living, they, for sure seem dead. But I have to write that like Van Gogh, Gerald Locklin has found the pulse of living and has transformed its vigor and joy into art. Locklin has written life into what was dead poetry. He has captured the life force of each instant and has produced a force of poetry like an aura, and dare I write a halo! His Catholicism would be amused by that, I think and about his likeness to Van Gogh. Still these things do work in describing this book, this bar, which for all of us, has been just cranked up a few more notches and on which also, the bar, sit fully filled drinks for all.

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