Review of Collin Kelley's Better To Travel - by D. Herrle
Better To Travel
by Collin Kelley
Published by iUniverse © 2003
am seldom invested in poetry books. I
usually must imbibe poetry in small does, lest I lose interest.
All in all, I prefer prose work.
But Kelley's BETTER TO TRAVEL is one of the rare works that
sidestepped that preference.
title itself implies movement, flux, action from somewhere to somewhere.
And BTT substantiates this implication consistently throughout.
The back cover reveals the book's premise: a physical flight from a
moribund relationship. But
the destination is more vaguely identified: "sights unseen" (the
title of the book's closing piece).
the flight from heartache is also mental and spiritual, of course. And gradually the reader finds that the flight *from*
heartache was not wholly accurate---for the heartache is a fellow
passenger on the plane, a haunting mate on London streets, a taunting
vision in troubled dreams. The
narrator's European trip seems a half-real vacation with a ghost: a
reluctant self-exile ("Consider me exiled, expatriate,
excommunicated.") from the lost love that he cannot ungrasp.
is not specific about *who* this lost love is.
The flashbacks and lucid imaginations emanate a more essential
power and presence rather than a meaty person.
The narrator focuses on both real and fantastic shared moments:
"How quickly I am in that place that is nowhere at all".
He has fled to a dreamscape, a healing purgatory.
And he admits this, even to his former love: "Your presence
more spectre than spatial."
book also mentions timely world events and issues that serve as a
chronological backdrop for the narrator's journey.
By book's end he returns to America, but sees that he is still in a
foreign land---for he must relearn language and behavior and even love.
craft itself can be initially mistaken by folks tired of diary-type works
as yet more typical "confessional" poetry.
But by the first poem's conclusion, I was relieved and invested.
For the rest of BTT I felt as if I was a second set of the narrator's
eyes---and a second wounded heart.
style is nimble, clever, and injects very notable lines without setting us
up for them. They are felt
like snowflakes suddenly dropped on noses.
brings me to an attempt to describe the book with a brief image that comes
to my mind in its regard:
TO TRAVEL is a snowglobe, just shaken, containing a cozy house locked to
the world and those lost outside and a winter-forlorned but beautiful
tree. And between the tree
and the locked, lighted house a lonely, outcast man is sprawled on his
back in the snow, slowly and grievously making snow angels with his arms
and legs. Each time the man sweeps his limbs he becomes a bit
younger---and the pain that drove him outside breathes out into the snow,
not sure why that image arose from my reading Kelley's book, but it serves
as a mood indicator: be prepared for both pain and pleasantry, warmth and
cold, death and rebirth.
the image was planted by a part in my favorite piece:
is the snow I never
this season and the
house I run towards.
I go indoors does it mean
I cannot cope?"
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