The Lakes of Coma
Michael S. Begnal
Six Gallery Press
67 pp. $9.00
Emily Dickinson once wrote, “If I
read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I
know that is poetry.”
It's hard to get
particularly heated up or iced by Michael Begnal's new collection, The Lakes
of Coma. It would probably be accurate to say it will give rise to a similar
lukewarm sensation in any prospective reader. While the self-conscious voice of
one Begnal poem might cause you to roll your eyes, the next shows a gleam of apt
imagery or an interesting construction of thought; while one reeks of
immaturity, another smells of life's true odors. Still, it's hard to get excited
over a hit and miss experience. Poetry is nothing like baseball, where hitting
one out of three is a fine and acceptable percentage. To stretch the comparison
to The Lakes of Coma: Begnal hits a double or two, no home runs,
and a number of solid singles but also many fouls and an embarrassing
number of outright strikeouts.
His utilization of a
relatively minimalist style doesn't help his case much—though his rhythm does
tends to bog whenever his lines get too laden, so muscling it up isn't
necessarily the answer. What is?
This poet probably
needs to wade into something more substantial than his own head and a few limp
experiences. Maybe a few hundred volumes of classic poetry, whether they be
Surrealist, Romantic, metered, free-form, and/or other. This is, of course,
excellent advice for any and all poets but especially for those currently
struggling at the plate. Poetry is so much more than the simple transmission of
thought and appearances.
We're sure that
Begnal is aware of this, and it is our sincere hope that he can break out of
this inconsistent streak in the near future.