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Summer 2009, vol 7 no 2

Blue Night & The Inadequacy of Long-stemmed Roses
by Larry Kimmel
A Review by Johnye Strickland


This is the second edition of this book, a collection of tanka, free verse, and cherita poems, with the addition of "The Temperature of Love," a free verse sequence of nine poems. Blue Night is a collection of tanka and free verse, dedicated "to those who know the night," while the inadequacy of long-stemmed roses is a "collage" of seventy-three cherita. According to the Introduction, which was written by Denis Garrison, "Not all the tanka in this collection are presented in five lines. Some are rearranged in other configurations, presumably because those poems had intrinsic structure that required it." Garrison says he would "characterize Blue Night as an eclectic miscellany of formal and free verse with rather a lot of tanka. It works together beautifully to weave a tapestry of Kimmel's 'night' that is fascinating in its variety, complexity, and unity."

The first tanka appears after four slightly longer poems, including this one:

Past Midnight

Past midnight, I turn off the lamp,
sit listening to the wind. Christmas tree lights

Make fern shadows of spruce branches
on the ceiling. Somewhere,

in the vastness of night, the young poet
who will become my friend,

the famous actress I will never meet. (p. 14)

The first tanka:

This moonless night
This hush
of falling snow
          By lamplight
          your five haiku . . . (p. 17)

Kimmel has a way with words, with timing . . . and with the look of a poem on the page. Consider these, which I suggest may be called tanka:

after breakfast
at EATs—
          bare branches
a fried egg sky (p. 18)

the narrow sidewalk
                    as two lovers pass me—
                                        the snag
                                        of a privet on my sleeve (p. 21)

The poems in this slender volume are quiet, pensive, and moving. Each one invites the reader to enter the world of the poem, to pause from his/her busy life and contemplate the mood, the tone, the memory it invokes, and to be refreshed by having shared a convivial scene with a fellow poet. I've never met Larry Kimmel, but I feel I know him, that we share a bond of similar interests and mutual friends.

I was not familiar with the cherita, and would not have found it on my own. But after reading Kimmel's I find the form something I could be interested in working with, somewhat akin to tanka, or to a free verse cameo, like this one (number 64):

summer heat

on the porchsteps
9 red toenails, 1 to paint

young though she is
she's already a few
good secrets

The book is a good read, and can be revisited often with renewed pleasure.


Blue Night & the inadequacy of long-stemmed roses, 2nd Edition
by Larry Kimmel
Modern English Tanka Press 2009
Cover Art: Painting circa 1904 by Eve Greffill
ISBN 978-1-935398-02-8   $12.95 USD
PO Box 43717, Baltimore, Maryland 21236 USA