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 Marie Lecrivain reviews Unfinished Book by Deborah P. Kolodji


published by Shadow Ink Publications




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 I like the simple words of a poem,

that speaks truth in three syllables or less.

 - "CyranNO"/ m. lecrivain


I never quote myself in a review as this indulges in the epitome of arrogance, but the above passage describes perfectly how I regard Deborah P. Kolodji's new collection unfinished book (2006 Shadow Ink Publications). Kolodji has found a bit of the golden mean somewhere between Eliot (of Wasteland fame) and Shiki (Japan's last great haiku/tanka master).


Kolodji is a master of short poetry forms, notably post-modern/English language haiku and cinquains. She condenses the universal experiences other poets wax on about for pages at a time into short, powerful organic verse that slips into the mind like a little drop of water traveling at lightning speed to burst into full-blown loveliness at the base of the cerebellum. 


Consider the following three haiku: "unfinished book," "birth announcement," and "teenage giggles." Most of Kolodji's haiku maintain their ability to stand alone, but these have been cleverly linked into a natural triptych by their placement on the page:


unfinished book -

a vegetable garden

not yet planted



                        birth announcement

                        an unopened packet

                        of marigolds



teenage giggles

three pony packs

of impatiens



More than a few of the pages of unfinished book are garnished with treble haiku, but there are other poems to investigate and enjoy even with their strange marriage of humor and despondency: "Growing Salsa," a delicious, evocative tale about the evolution of salsa with a surprise twist (sorry, no spoilers here); "Testament," an introspective, lonely, elliptical view of the death of a loved one who succumbed to a smoking addiction; and "Infidelity," which skillfully employs the ubiquitous metaphor of the onion - for the shedding factor - to draw a parallel between the narrator's journey from the death of her marriage:


the onions always make me cry -

like the husband I divorced today

after finding receipts for hotels and restaurants

more elegant than the Colorado Street Deli

places I never dined.


Through her slow, agonizing rebirth as a singleton:



and each paper became one more skin

to peel away, the round illusion slowly shrinking,

a perfect marriage becoming memory -   


The onion metaphor transcends its ubiquity with each line, until the poem's ironic end:




and I am bleeding tears, pouring salt


over my rye bread only today


the order was no onions.



I do like the simple words of a poem in three syllables or less, in twenty lines or less. It strikes me as ironic - again - that in our post-post-modern age where the dogma "less is more" has become the new global catch phrase Kolodji applies this adage to her poetry, and renders the brutality of this truth into something graceful and appealing.


unfinished book is a slow, fresh whisper into an ear made almost deaf by so many desperate voices clamoring for attention in the guise of literary greatness. Think of it as a breath from the Buddha; soft, ephemeral, and invigorating.





- review by Marie Lecrivain, executive editor of poeticdiversity







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