PLANETARY SHIFT by Brent Cassan

PLANETARY SHIFT

: Poems and Short Fiction
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A mixed collection of self-published poems and fiction fragments.

Cassan’s book is an uneven mix: Many poems address grand moral themes, such as concerns about the Iraq War and poverty in the United States, while others, such as “Fictions” dwell on personal encounters, figments of imagination or dreams. The scattered fragments and poems never seem to connect. Indeed, fragmentation may be the book’s overarching metaphor–greater clarity within and among each poem would give them more power. Many, such as “Babylon,” include striking and original images that an editor would likely have encouraged the author to expand upon. In “Fictions,” Cassan depicts the layering of electronics and human communication, a surreal tableau which could have been stronger if it were pared down. Meanwhile, other poems undermine fine sentiment with wordiness and sentimentality, and could be nixed altogether. For instance, when Cassan writes of “city minds / ashamed to confront / poverty’s world or to kindly mutter Hallelujah / to a sidewalk mendicant” one imagines him delving into a thesaurus for assistance. Instead, the author could have drawn inspiration from poets who use inventive language and rhythms, instead of polysyllabic words, to offer powerful social critiques. Cassan published two works of nonfiction and two works of poetry before this, and deserves praise for shouldering the challenge of shifting between genres. However, his poems show little reverence for rhythm or form–the very stuff that makes a line, stanza or paragraph poetic, even within a work of prose. The simplest subject comes alive when the writer engages human senses directly. In the words of William Gass, a writer must attend to each syllable, because rhythm “literally touches the reader.”

A few bright spots emerge among the overwritten lines; would benefit from edits.

ISBN: 978-1-4196-8731-0
Program: Kirkus Indie
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