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The Optimist: Poems (Hollis Summers Poetry Prize) Paperback – May 10, 2005
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About the Author
Joshua Mehigan was born in upstate New York in 1969. Since 1993 he has lived in New York City and worked as an editor and English teacher. Published in many journals, including the Chattahoochee Review, Dogwood, The Formalist, Pequod, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Sewanee Review, and Verse, his poems and translations are also forthcoming in anthologies from Word Press and Zoo Press. His poems have won the Dogwood Poetry Contest and been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
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"Promenade" furnishes Mehigan with a hilarious excuse for an overripe rhetoric, as it appears to be a dramatic monologue for a fatuous, middle-aged bachelor, ending on a beautiful, nonsense mock-aphorism. This poem's companion piece could be the brilliant "Another Pygmalion". Both evince the poet's eclat, somehow reckless and modest at the same time. "Promenade" is written in rhyming couplets, yet so sinuously and with such a sure touch at enjambment that the effect is rather peekaboo than Pope and "Another Pygmalion" although printed in a solid block reveals itself to be written in perfect, albeit run-over, terza rima. "A Bird at the Leather Mill" has the eerie quality of a parable by Kierkegaard or Kafka. "Buzzards" feels like it may have its origin in family anecdote, but also reminds this reader of the underappreciated metaphysical lyrics of Leonie Adams. In this poem and many others he can be moving, "In the Home of my Sitter", "The Optimist", "Introduction to Poetry" among them.
That Mr. Mehigan can write such tender, bitter, ruefully comic scenes of upstate New York working-class life and also write very good poems with titles such as "Imperative of the Minor Florentine Chapel" and "Alexandra", about a fourth century anchoress, testifies to his range.
The collection's title may seem sarcastic after so many cynical chuckles, but after closing this book on the lovely "Merrily", I am reminded that stoicism and existentialism are positive philosophies.
I have a personal ascending scale for poetic worth. These poems are worth reading, rereading, memorizing, and then repeating.
Sometimes Mehigan's imagery borders on the grotesque and comical, as in the dreamlike "Merrily," where a Rimbaud-like speaker, drifting downstream, remarks on the mesmerizing scenery in a series of bewildered questions: "West, through the trees' meshed crowns, light scattering / toward such specific ends! Why those? And why / these flexed roots? Why that oak's failed rendering / of coupled elephants in living wood?"
Perhaps the most memorable image in the book appears at the conclusion of the opening poem, "Promenade," when the wind at an outdoor wedding in Queens creates a climactic spectacle that is both grittily urban and wittily urbane: "Every face turns to look; / and when the bride's tall orange bun's unpinned / by ordinary, inconvenient wind, / all, in the breath it takes a yard of hair / to blaze like lighted aerosol, would swear/ there was no greater miracle in Queens. / Wish is the word that sounds like what wind means."
Good luck trying to forget that last line. Now go buy the book and discover for yourself why Joshua Mehigan is already a poet for the ages.
He uses violence and cruelty, and adds in a sense of humor. His writing in brilliant and he is extremely talented. Although his work portrays some violence and cruelty, his work qualifies as
mysterious. The word optimist meaning a hope for the best coincides with his work. Possibly, when writing about "A Questionable Mother" or "Last Chance at Reconciliation", the hope was that the mothers daughter would be found or that reconciliation could be a factor for this certain man. These
two are not only the two poems that deal with hope. They all do in some way. The Optimist contains poems on different subjects such as the weather, a house fire, noise pollution, murder,
suicide, love, ideal love and reconciliation. These poems contain themes such as suicide and death. "An Ideal Passion" almost seems like a poem about a guy who is stalking this woman. He loves this woman whom he can not have and dreams of her. The poem "Riddle" is set up as a riddle. It leaves the reader to figure out what exactly the poet is talking about or of whom. "The Murder" had a deep impact on myself as the reader. The last line "The way to a woman's heart is through her chest" left me uneasy. "Post Partum" deals with depression after the birth of a baby. I would recommend that everyone take the time to read Joshua Mehigans book. He converts deep emotion into powerful art. The language he uses creates power over the reader, that one can't help but keep reading. This book overall, was very good. It is the first of many to come.