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For the Living Dead Paperback – January 1, 2013
"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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The early poems reflect a rich tonal palette, while later poems are stripped to the songbones, and with both Greinke's voice soars. His syllables click and collide as birds in “The Way Heat Pours Out,” “Perching on glazed branches,/Singing unheard songs./Redwing blackbirds, purple finches & exotic/Chinese canaries/Haunt me now that the ice storms of January/have made the air too cold for flight.” Fast forward to 1986’s “After the Ice Storm” where the breath is arranged to bring forth the hard syllables of winter when, “We walked among the pines in back,/Accompanied by the clack & click of branches/...So now we wait protected and safe/until another bough may break.” Greinke’s ear remains sharp through the years, matching sounds to content, a seasoned master.
Greinke’s collection has lighter moments. Fine nature slices, as well as poems that pair humor and sex. He takes a hands on approach to spirituality, and composes in a myriad of modes: “Tonight” from 1973, is gorgeous eight line sounding of beach and sleep. “Black Milk”, also from 1973, is surreal danger lurking in hard conso-syllabics: “Diamonds gleam from a president’s mouth...a flag courts a fire engine...If a man drinks a milk that is black/He will turn into a stringless kite.”
I like it when a motif is happened upon by the poet, and rain and a wonderful warm wetness hangs about Greinke's work, particularly from the seventies, but not just rain, but also body fluid, and dampness, wet earth, and the poet is at home in the earth and the coming and going of death.
Newer poems reach backward into memory and the poet speaker retells escapades from the late 1960s and recalls early sexual desire disguised as hero-playing, and all through the lines the warmth of Greinke’s voice is present, aware of memory’s trappings and high bright windows. Perhaps this is most evident in “My Father’s Job”, from 2012, where the speaker recalls watching his father enter the automobile factory, and glimpsing the grey uniformed men inside, mistook it for a prison. “My father went in through a small red door.../A quick glance revealed it as a prison.../We took him to that gray place every day.../Once he quit to play piano in a bar./ He was happy for a while, but/..my mother wanted more money so/He went back inside, this time for life.”
The collection ends with “Flood Tide,” a Prufrockian elegy for love where death proves to be the great isolator in a flood of sensory information. The speaker is wet, swimming in the endless ocean, swamping through tears in a flooded factory. The speaker laments all of the sensations, all of the water, all of the possibilities if you will. “There is no/ pail for love. Even though/we’ve wrapped ourselves within/each others arms, each/of us still drowns alone.” Like Prufrock who cannot bear the cost of women on the beach speaking to him, the speaker here cannot levy the cost of human contact to the spirit. It’s almost too much for one man, “pages/drift in pools, like travelers...we wonder if/the ocean breeze will keep us on course/or blow us back into ourselves.” The human spirit and condition are Greinke’s subject, and in this well balanced collection offers up insight and music.
Greinke has a direct and conversational way with his words. Readers who grab this book will be twisted and thrown through surrealistic and bold spectrums as they move through the pages. For the Living Dead contains a wide range of poetry from the authors career, from 1969 to 2012 and it is simply amazing to watch a talented writer become seasoned through each turn of the page.You almost think you get to know the poet through this wealth of material collected here, but I get the feeling there’s a lot more to steal away from the poet.
I would definitely recommend this collection to anyone who is interested in poetry or interested in starting out as a poet. I think you’ll be able to learn a lot as you examine the growth that takes place through these pages. The book has great a great connection through each page and completely immerses the reader in his well written lines. This is simply a must have for all poetry lovers out there.
I may have to look into the other titles out there at Presa Press, and I’ll definitely be looking for more of Greinke’s work.
Manager and Editor-in-Chief at Weasel Press