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Black Dog, Red Dog (Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary) Paperback – August, 1997
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Some claim that Dobyns's verse is too prosaic, that it is closer to prose, broken into lines, than it is to actual poetry. I would argue that the poems in this volume are closer to prose poetry, than to prose or poetry, per se. Dobyns's style does not consist of subtlety of language, but straight forward sentences with subtle rhythms. The sentences are often short and forceful, violent. Others are longer and equally vivid, and together they create that subtle rhythm of words and ideas. "This morning as dawn broke I was walking / at the outskirts of town. I saw the first light / strike the clapboard front of the general / store next to the woods, reflect from the silver / chrome of a chash register in the front window." (from "Caverns of Darkness," p. 5) The attentive reader will recognize that these poems are not simple-minded. One need not read each poem over and over to catch each line, but in order to make sense of each poem as a whole. The ideas are as subtle as the rhythms, but once they hit you.... you'll realize you can only read one at a time. These poems need a bit of time to soak in, to wallow in the misery, and to finally come 'round and think maybe things aren't so bad after all. In a dark world, or a dark night, Stephen Dobyns sees a faint light, stray and shimmering.