Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: The Graveyard Poet by Steve Santini

I spent the last night reading The Graveyard Poet.  The Graveyard Poet is an anthology of the poems of Steve Santini.  Reading the introduction did not impress me. It was not a good way to start.  In the forward Mr. Santini praises himself constantly and his own "biography" seems to be what people expect a dark and disturbed person to say.  "As a boy I was always drawn to horror films and creepy works of art and literature" (Introduction page one). As I came to read later, Mr. Santini praises himself and a poetic talent that is decidedly missing.

The author seemed to try far too hard to sound tragic and morbid. He reaches into a hat and pulls out random subjects he believes with haunt and shock the reader.  It doesn't haunt and shock me.  Most serious poetry readers are haunted and shocked when a writer digs deep down within him/herself and pulls up frightening ideas and thoughts that have no business being inside a  warm human being or speak honestly about how darker emotions affect them. Word-craft is the key. Poems have to pack and emotional punch in a very finite space. Mr. Santini seems to want to fool the reader into thinking he is tragic and disturbed.  While I enjoy end line rhymed poetry and closed form poems, the poems in this anthology are very poorly written.  They, unfortunately are written with a poetic style I expect from my seven year old.

Mr. Santini seems as though he is caught between styles.  It appears that he wants to be an open verse poet yet cannot let go of the idea of structured, closed form which is really restricting him.  He mainly relies on ABAB or AABB rhyme scheme.  I suspect if the poems themselves were better written, holding on to this pattern would make sense; he could make it work. Personally I think he would have a better go at it if he abandoned the hard structure he is currently using.  There are only so many rhymes for "love."  After you use them all, it's hard to continue being original when word-craft isn't your strongest forte. "I am now 30 and my name is Bob/And in my youth I held many a job" (The Sound, lines 1-2) is a line I'd expect to be heard in a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode.  Reminds me far too much of the "Fred" episode (the whacked out barber who is 'naughty').

The author uses cliches far too often which is really a sign of poor creative writing skills.  The poem Spoke the Spiders begins with, "'Step into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly" (line 1).  Line one was not even written by him.  The Spider and the Fly was written Mary Howitt in 1829.  While worded just a tad bit different, this poem begins with plagiarized material.  At least Lewis Carroll had the decency to reword Ms. Howitt's poem as a parody (The Lobster Quadrille). It's obvious that the poet is unable to create his own imagery; falling back on worn out expressions that evoke no imagination.  I'm certain that the evocation of imagery and emotion is high on the "what poetry is supposed to do" list.

On a positive note, the photography in the book is very nice and some of the poems were a little whimsical in a way.  Mr. Santini is a man of varied talents. He is a master escape artist and collects Medieval torture devises. According to my own research he is the real deal.  I have a great respect for escape artists.  What they do is dangerous.  To master even one escape must be thrilling.  I'm sure he puts on quite a show.  Mr. Santini has written books on both subjects.  I have not read any of his other books though am truly interested in those he wrote on escapism.  He is, however, still a poor poet.  There is very little more to say.  I don't recommend this book to anyone. One star out of five...and that's being kind.

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