ENTIRE DILEMMA by Michael Burkard


Age Range: 1 - 32767
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paper 1-889330-18-3 The sixth book of poems by the author of My Secret Boat (1990, etc.)—which mixed prose and poetry—continues to document the poet’s struggles with alcohol, a broken marriage, and a past he—d rather forget about. With his short-line simplicity and slight surreal touches, Burkard resists clarity when he’s not outright sentimental, much in the style of Raymond Carver, though he fancies himself more in the tradition of Roethke. Two longish poems, —Before the Dark— and —How I Shaded the Book,— rely on a twelve-step—like vocabulary to apologize to an old friend from his drunk days, and to credit a Graham Greene novel for a moment of clarity in his boozy life. Many of Burkard’s little fables and parables are deliberately enigmatic: a boy without shadows is murdered; a man in rehab makes a wallet and then has it returned from the one he gave it to; a boy falls in love with a pencil after his father dies; and the hippie aphorisms of —A Point,— where he declares that —all you need is a point.— Burkard risks sheer triviality in his playful bits: —Mel— seems little more than an excuse to ask, —Who the hell is Mel?—; and —Tom— allows him to blurt out about Toms he’s known. Despite his occasional affirmation—a prayer to his dog, a hymn to beauty and simplicity—Burkard’s strength is in his gloomy recollections: memories of an unwanted kiss, or imagining a world without him in it. Garbled syntax and overuse of the distancing —one— detract from more honest insights.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-889330-17-5
Page count: 88pp
Publisher: Sarabande
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1998