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Imitations of Love Poems by Dory Williams and Dustin Pickering, reviewed by Duane Vorhees

Williams, Dory & Pickering, Dustin

Imitations of Love Poems

Transcendent Zero Press, 2019

“Imitations of Love Poems” (Transcendent Zero Press) is a joint production by Dory Williams and Dustin Pickering. Like most marriages, the book is an odd pairing of two quite different sensibilities. Though both poets write of love and religion, Dory speaks most often of God and Dustin of thwarted Eros. Dory excels at wonderful one-liners like “There is a border at your neck where my lips dare to travel” and “My eyes own a well, built for me, and you are the water.” Dustin takes a more circumspect approach, sprinkling his poems with references to the Classical world of thought populated by Heraclitus, Ovid, and Damocles, and speaking in the voice of Lyndon Johnson’s grandfather, a Confederate veteran who formed the Populist Party in Texas and prefigured many of the paradoxes of the Great Society; generally, his lines are longer and deeper, as in the prose poem “for M. S.”:

When your sweet dreams linger long with afterglow, you will fly like a courtesan of rain through the mysterious sky. Ambivalence is my secret ghost—he tangles your lips with metaphor. The Magi are hopeless in their search for silence. At night, you are a shining star that knows the source of light 

Dory is the mistress of the aphorism, “If you want fame and money without real / Achievement behind it, you’re not greedy enough.” “Youth is a car sale. The salesman lies. / But we get one look at it and it's sold.” “With comedy, / you can forget your problems, and fast. / Unfortunately, it always seems it’s the tragedy that lasts!” Dustin is better at indirection, as in “Angels in the Dark”:


Something of passion is here, 

listening. I cannot let it go 

because it holds me in silence. 

I had hopes placed in those lips 

that form the most measureless magic 

of your smile; I wanted to kiss them and hear them 

tell me what the world imparts. 

However, my heart will not stop its ache 

and you cannot stop it even 

if language could cry for me 

as I try, again, in these words 

to tell you my heart cannot leave.


Dory is quite capable of paradox, as in “For Me, For You, For the World”:


I say the words, “I Love you”, before I speak. 

And I stay before I’m invited


But Dustin revels in making language itself a living, mysterious entity, as in two of his poems “For e. b.”:


i have usurped your river of thought 

and looked up words in your dictionary 

without your permission.


you kiss language, and 

let its free fires fluster and smother 

to bite wisdom in its fearful grip.


While Dory wavers between desire and uncertainty (“Angels cannot stop true love. / Neither can demons! / Death cannot stop true love. / But you can!”), Dustin sometimes shows his promiscuous side, engaging in dialogues not with Dory but with his glittering muses Leonard Cohen (“They Won’t Forget to Pray: verses in response to ‘So Long Marianne’”) and Amy Winehouse (“I Cried For You on the Kitchen Floor: lines from ‘You Know I Am No Good’”).

And so it goes. The Dory section and the Dustin section are like mismatched lovers, separate and independent under the same covers but deriving mutual warmth. They do not reflect upon each other, as William Blake did in his contrasting “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience.” They follow their own paths without reference to each other. But, as Dustin reflects,


This is how worlds happen

One truth turns into another. 

They lean on each other, 

grieving and burning 

like a small atom dying in friction, 

becoming a grave of itself. 


Duane Vorhees, an English collegiate professor for the University of Maryland University College, is the author of  "Love's Autobiography." He also publishes duanespoetree.blogspot.com, which features writers and other artists from around the world. 

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