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SEA SNAILS ON A BLACK CHOW'S TONGUE by Keith Harvey

SEA SNAILS ON A BLACK CHOW'S TONGUE

By Keith Harvey

Pub Date: Oct. 8th, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4401-7887-0

A collection of poems that reflects on our basic aloneness in this life.

The poems in Sea Snails are poems of ideas rather than of emotions–meditative, philosophical and preoccupied with isolation and solitude. Harvey (Petroglyphs, 2008, etc.) uses two recurring images–the snail and the shipwrecked sailor–to explore our solitary plight on earth. Poems such as “Life on the Under Leaf” and “The Myth of the Snail” argue that our journey is like that of the snail–long, solitary and fixed, every day a limited journey “from the rose leaf / to the yard’s loam / alone.” At the same time, the collection draws comparisons between our lives and that of a shipwrecked sailor, left to struggle alone on a deserted island and to try to reach out for others with a message that may or may not be understood or answered–if found at all. In addition to snails, these poems are peopled with literal sailors, writers and readers–individuals who identify their aloneness and yet seek solace in myth-making, ascribing to the familiar belief that we create stories to explain away chaos, bond with others and protect ourselves from the finite experience that is life. While Harvey can be commended for tapping into universal questions about our existence and for experimenting with form–including poems that range from haiku to narrative prose, ultimately this variety in form cannot distract from the fact that, by the book’s end–these two themes have been reworked so many times that its message becomes diluted and trite. More thematic variation would be welcome, so that readers don’t grow weary of an otherwise valuable sentiment.

A collection with an admirable intent.