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The Image Maker: A Collection of Poems by Donald B. Colson reviewed by Casey Dorman

The Image Maker: A Collection of Poems

Donald B. Colson

Createspace Independent Publishing Platform 2017 


At 78 years old, Donald Colson is a “new” poet, publishing a collection of 39 short poems, each with an accompanying prose “comment” explaining the poem’s “origins and meanings.” The poems are arranged into six themes: State of Mind, Relationships, Mourning, Nature, Ageing, and Faith and Spirituality.

Of the many impressions I had of this collection, three things stood out: the honesty of the observations, the sense of self-discovery, and the inventiveness of the imagery. Several of the poems are a faithful, sometimes brutal, often stark examination of the poet’s thoughts and feelings. “Writer’s Despair,” in which he confesses to longing “for recognition/by others with talent” is one. He examines the emotion of “Shame,” noting that “As a snail touched/reflexively withdraws/into its shell, shame burdens/ and turns us away from others.”  The poems, “Temptation,” “Help,” “Obsolescence,” “Metamorphosis,” and “Here and Not Here” are all searingly truthful in their examination of the poet’s emotions. The most memorable lines of emotion and truth may be contained in his prose prefaces to each poem, particularly when he is talking about the loss of his wife. “We agreed to meet after her death at a specific time (2 p.m., April 15) and location” he tells us while introducing “Awaiting Jane,” a heart wrenching poem in which, as he waits for the mystical meeting he had hoped would emerge, he finds that, “Although I linger/you do not answer” so that he responds, “Mute and hollow/my heart and hope/shrivel and sink./Salvation lies in/a return to grief.” Memorable, honest, and depressing, but not hopeless observations. In his introduction to “Love Long Lost” he says, “If we are fortunate we have experienced love so intense and deep that, for many years, the loss continues to be like a searing pain, penetrating to our center.”

The self-discovery, which is not unrelated to the collection’s honesty, is primarily related to the poet’s appreciation of the influence of his immediate ancestors, his parents and grandparents, on his conscious and unconscious thoughts and, indeed, on his being. His father was Jewish and his mother Catholic, though neither of them practiced their faith. Their parents, while living on a farm in America, were from Europe. The poems “Mother,” “Grandma’s House,” and “Paternal Grandmother,” among others, focus upon how he gradually came to realize how his memories shaped his own life and the genetic gifts, which he inherited, were evident in even his own children and grandchildren. Curiously, he wonders about his own legacy, although we see the rich legacy of his own parents and grandparents in his memories.

What makes these poems so remarkable and pleasing to read is Colson’s facility with figurative language. Immediately, in the first poem, “Night Train,” we are presented with a beautiful image, followed by a poignant association: “Wistful as the wail/of a night train passing./A mother’s cry/sad longing.” Then, we hear the interweaving of sensory experience with imagination as he describes the sound of the receding train as “Leaving a whisper/of roads not taken.” In “Kentucky” he describes “Fireflies, like stars/stream by the moisture/streaked car windows.” And in “Metamorphosis” he talks of faded passion as, “Longings like railroad tracks/parallel but never converge.” Colson is both imaginative and inventive. In “Grandma’s House” he recalls being soothed to sleep by the “buzz and hum of tires” on the two-lane highway that passed the house, then ends the poem with an echo, recalling his grandfather’s use of Canadian French to speak to him, as a sound, “for me as comforting/ as the buzz and hum of tires/on the highway.”

This is a remarkable collection by a poet with a remarkable ear and even more faultless vision of scenes, objects and nature, which he is able to transform into poetic images. He explores the layers of consciousness as found in both dreams and memories. He lingers on the loss that defined much of his life, and how he tried to cope with it, always holding onto the memories, even of the pain. Each poem is both a pleasure to the ear and a revelation to the heart and mind. This is a collection well worth reading—and re-reading.

The Image Maker is available from Amazon Books

Casey Dorman

Editor, Lost Coast Review

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Reader Comments (1)

Thank you for letting the poetry community know about this poet, Casey.

January 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnca Vlasopolos

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