Review of Optimism (by Sue Lange)

By Peter Dabbene
Copyright 2009 Peter Dabbene
ISBN 978-0-578-04116-2
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Review by Sue Lange (New York, NY United States)

First and foremost this is a poetry book. It’s a coffee table book, sure, but the poetry is the main thing here. The photographs are great and they definitely add to the mood, but they are not the main thing. Most coffee table poetry books feature the photos which are related in theme. The text sets off the photos. The opposite is true here. The poems, in fact, stand alone. They are complete in themselves.

It’s a fine collection of well-written poetry that speaks of the ordinary, elevating it to the extraordinary. Small moments are given the time they deserve but never get. These moments are easily recognized. They are found in each of our lives, but rarely do we appreciate them. Dabbene appreciates such things as curb furniture, old ladies stealing market fruit, dogs that kill bunnies, loners in bars, the fear we have of teenagers, marriage annulment, guys that play basketball on weekends, the moon, books, the letter s, Pluto, Catholic mass, black socks and babies before they are born, babies when they grow up and go away, comets.

The list is much longer, or course, there’s a lot of poetry in the volume, but you get a good idea of what goes on in Dabbene’s life: the same things that go on in your own life. It’s all very recognizable and yet, unusual at the same time.

The work is accessble, but not cliche. It’s lovely, neither trite, nor esoteric. Some of it is downright sublime:

So difficult to watch, helpless
as pearl-white nubs burrow through tender
gumlines, wreaking havoc, provoking tears

So difficult to whisper soothing tones
and promise assurances during this, the
first of many pains I cannot protect against

My favorite poem is Ode to Philip Glass. I like it because if Philip Glass’ music was a physical entity it would look like this poem does on the page. Dabbene captured the spirt of the man’s music perfectly.

Downside of this book. It’s expensive. But then, it’s filled with expensive photographs and priceless poems.

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