Ironies abound in this collection of poems on war, politics, history and society.
Written over a period of 50 years, Kean’s poems take on the anguish of injustice, whether personal or political, and demonstrate the disconnect between human potential and human cruelty. Categorized by overarching themes (war, politics, history and society), each poem bears a location and date, giving the reader a map of creation and a method to fix the poem in a historical context. The Iraq War, the CIA’s involvement in Chile, New York’s Love Canal and Soviet assassination attempts are as inspiring to the poet as King Tut, scenes from a Mexican town square and urban landscapes of love and crime. At their strongest, the political poems mix horrific subject matter with rollicking rhythm and form to create an unforgettable danse macabre. At their weakest, the pieces dissolve into ranting chants and lists of crimes against humanity. The personal poems, most dating from the ’60s and ’70s, written in the U.S. Virgin Islands and New York City, shift between gentle love poems of regret and the sly raunchiness of erotic declamation. Kean obviously loves language, dabbling in alliteration like â€œOur Cowboy, Christian, Capitalist Crusader,” as well as esoteric vocabulary–like the recurring word â€œfeculent”–throughout the volume. Unfortunately, these parts do not contribute to a stronger whole, as exhibited in this painful scansion of lines from â€œAmerica the Dreadful, Set to the Melody of America the Beautiful”: â€œAmerica! America! A plague is shed on thee, / A phony democracy from sea to polluted sea.” No matter the subject, the voice is the same–accusatory, involved and skilled at pointing out the gaps between what is said and what is done. The poet thus exposes what he perceives as the Truth.
Real passion and outrage on subjects public and private; less-than-stellar execution.