Written in part after the death of the author’s mother, “Modern Times: Urban Realities” is a smart and short collection of poetry by Daniel Lisset. This is his first collection, though he had been writing poetry for a number of years before publishing with Balboa Press.
From cockroaches to coffee, city park settings and gridlock traffic, the city scenes are distinctly his own experience yet can be readily transplanted anywhere. Any time spent in the city will unearth one of these situations and a lot of them are taken lighthearted as can be; certainly when it comes to pests and annoyances. Exasperation rarely enters the equation, and in it’s stead we read of more fascination with city life.
Even some of the darker side of city stress is explored in clubbing and drinking with “Know What I Want” and “Insomnia” though not so gritty to deal with what many associate with city problems like drug abuse, failing business and homelessness giving the impression those dark alleys are ones not traversed by Lissett and avoided. Even “He’s In A Gang” is more about the perceived heart and soul of a fledgling gang member posturing and fronting and not a portrait of the violence one may expect.
Written largely after the passing of the author’s mother, there are entries formed in relation to that for certain. Some of the most beautiful lines are found in these explorations of mourning. Reflections on the deathbed vigil, spreading ashes, and the life once lived lay alongside the more lighthearted work quite comfortably.
“The Sailor” is a biography of the author’s father; a study of those war-time stories, growing to manhood, and the end of his life. In the introduction we learn this particular sailor passed away over a decade ago, so blending the remembrance of losing a parent previously coupled with the recent loss of the author’s mother makes for one of the most powerful poems on life and loss within the volume. While many poems speak of christian faith, in this piece those allusions are notably absent. A story of the point of view from a hospital bed, it is somewhat refreshing to not have faith enter the dialogue.
While none of the poems are fixed with a date they were written, there is a progression here and it is impossible to tell if these are arranged by theme or chronologically. There is a downfall in not being able to discern the overall theme as it progresses and a reworking of the order, or an indication of date if they are arranged as they were written would have helped. Instead of swivelling from one observation or emotion to another it would be comforting to be led down these paths more gently. That said, such is life, being tugged to and fro with no real compass or how the next corner you turn will look – there may be no one to lead you and there may be no path.
There is a disclaimer in the copyright information which absolves the author of responsibility should readers forgo their wellbeing and follow what they may perceive as advice in his writing as a replacement for the advice of a physician. It’s a much better written clause than relayed here, and after reading the collection that note may seem heavy handed – there are far more potentially destructive forms of entertainment or self-help out there – but in a few instances and for a small number of people yes, the note could serve a purpose considering the subject matter of some poems like “Way Out (No Way Out): The Anti-Suicide Poem”.
It is tough with poetry to gauge word usage. In prose, there are many rules that determine what word fits where, and in poetry as much as we’d think all bets are off the limitations are imposed by the form and story being told more than rules of grammar. In some cases, there could have been a little more forging of phrases as it seems some words have been hammered into place and come out misshapen. Most of the lines that may read clumsily lend themselves to being read aloud however, so are worth a second glance. Perhaps dialect plays a role as well. While these poems could take place anywhere, Daniel Lissett is Australian and the city mentioned often is Sydney so a North American tongue may roll a few of these words around in slightly different directions..
On the other hand, some rhymes used are delightful which is a lot of the fun of modern poetry. Where some of Lissett’s poems follow an easy metre and others are more freeform and conversational so often it comes as a delight when an interesting rhyme is used. There are easily three-and-half stars here as I enjoyed all of the darker and mournful poems, and some of the cityscape, I felt many of them were daringly short. Had they been arranged by theme I’d have been able to loose myself better in one feeling or another so may have heard the poet’s voice more strongly. All in all, a short and smart collection on an array of topics so it was easy to remain engaged and enjoy the one that stuck the most immensely.
I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection.