Dirt Road Dreams by Susie Clevenger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I'll confess something here, right off the top, about a guilty habit I have. One of the first things I do when I pick up a new book to read, is to see how many pages it has. So, I knew, and yet, when I got to the end of this book, I wasn't ready. I felt like someone had snatched away my ice cream, or a friend with whom I had been having a wonderful conversation suddenly got up to leave. What? Already!? That should give you an idea of how much I enjoyed "Dirt Road Dreams."
The book is divided into three sections: "Barefoot On Gravel", "Kicking Up Sand" and "Dancing In Dust", each devoted, loosely, to a stage in the writer's life. Susie Clevenger writes in a direct, simple manner, but what she has to say is nuanced and emotionally rich. The title poem brought tears to my eyes. Other favorites were "Hallucinogenic Artistry" about a medical misstep, "Escape By Letting Go" which contains the marvelous lines "We'll leave a blank note/ for no one to read", and "Mute Beauties" which may be the freshest description of butterflies that I have read, and I'm partial to them, as the author is.
I didn't read this book without a slight quibble, though. To me, Susie's strength is in the genuineness and honesty of her poetic voice, and when, in the final section, she once or twice lapses into stiff language--"we shall" instead of "we'll", for example--it rang false. It's a little thing, but it bothered me.
Something Susie Clevenger is uncommonly good at, is choosing titles. I admired them throughout the book, and also, she is adept at writing striking final lines. Therefore, her poems tend to be "framed" beautifully.
My favorite poem, apart from the title poem, was "Bored With White Illusion". In it, the speaker asks for the passionate over the prosaic, and it contains the line "Let me feast on poems that feed my hunger". I'm always hungry for excellent poetry, and this book is that kind of feast. Highly recommended.
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