Family of Marsupial Centaurs and other birthday poems
Author: J.P. Dancing Bear
Publisher: Iris Press
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If I describe this book as good, then I dismiss its true merits. If I describe it as very good, then I describe roughly half of its contents. Family of Marsupial Centaurs and other birthday poems is excruciatingly ambitious in its scope. I shook my head with disbelief upon reading J.P. Dancing Bear’s introduction. He explained his motivations to write a poem on the birthday of a friend. The poem was not a simple dedication; it would repurpose the “elements in his friend’s life.” It was exciting to see poets like Ada Limon, Arlene Ang, and many others having what Bear labeled as “birthday poems” personalized and written just for them.
The prose poems are not of the Hallmark-card variety. They seethe. They breathe. They make noise. Take for example the opening of “The Lost Boy.”
Somewhere inside the yellowing maps of your heart is a boy: he is a compass of patience:
And here’s another one from “Bunnyman,” a piece I reread three times because of the stunning imagery.
already the night has gone on too long and it makes some of us break: he’d seen the rabbit of the moon: heard the coyotes growling along the back fences: the night kept rolling on: the wee hours were everywhere: he could hear the cops backfiring: the streetcleaners’ futility: rats chittering out their new world orders: old alarms sounding: he was not a happy bunny: too many predators: he didn’t like pressing his face to the sliding glass windows of forgotten neighbors:...
I imagined that the level of skill, vision, and discipline that was necessary to write something as exquisite as this book would have been daunting. But I also imagined it to be an enjoyable experience for Bear.
The form is deliberately unnatural. The use of colons to replace punctuation marks gives the blocks of prose poems a compact appearance. Page after page of fine prose poems. If you are the type of reader who highlights with a yellow marker all your favorite lines in a book, then do not do that in this book. You will end up marking all the pages except for the list of contents and acknowledgements.
From “City of Utensils,” sometimes you think this city just eats itself:
You should buy this book.
Meditations of a Beast
Age of Blight
A Roomful of Machines
We Bury the Landscape