BEYOND THE THORNED HOLLY by Gregory Cenac

BEYOND THE THORNED HOLLY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From Cenac, a debut collection of poetry steeped in nature and nostalgia.

In the preface of his book, Cenac states that his poems “describe the peak moments in my own life, those brief moments when I was fully alive.” Those moments often involve nature and wildlife. He eagerly anticipates spring in “A January Promise,” receives a visit from a robin in “An Avian Kiss,” finds a ladybug in his bathroom in “Winter Visitor,” and catches an octopus in “A Little South of Seattle.” In “Hawk,” the poet addresses a winged intruder: “All the neighbors are talking / You new to us. / No one safe from you. / You, so haughty / With no conscience, / Taking all you desire.” Cenac’s other passion is people. Entire poems consider his uncle’s freckles, a street man’s benediction, and memories of his daughter’s youth: “That summer spent on Rollerblades / Around the kitchen. / Popsicle lifted / Out into the neighborhood streets.” Cenac revives both good and bad memories of bygone days in poems like “Loose Change,” when neighbors exchanged corn for clothes but didn’t allow children of different races to play together. In the coming-of-age poem “Sunday-Morning Awakening,” the speaker gets to stay home alone with a copy of Life magazine only to discover a photograph of a topless Marilyn Monroe. The poem’s punch line: “That Sunday morning / Made a believer out of me.” Cenac’s free-verse descriptions of the physical world are tactile and full of wonder, such as “Shadows long, air cool, April kind,” and “Full fall in abeyance. / Dry leaves, gold and green.” If he falters at all, it is in a few off-the-wall poems, such as “Lascivious Corn Nut,” where he waxes poetic about an M&M “With the huge purple lips and the / Beautifully painted eyes of a Prince?” and “Loneliness,” in which he contemplates an imaginary episode of Oprah. Surely these were not among his “peak” moments and seem silly tucked among the more serious poems.

Winsome high points of a poet’s life.

Pub Date: May 31st, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-5320-2237-1
Page count: 106pp
Publisher: iUniverse
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2017




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