Black Boat Black Water Black Sand

by Dave Morrison,
Moon Pie Press, 2009,
74 pages, paperback, $10.00,
ISBN: 978 -1 – 61539 – 452 – 4
Buy the Book

Dave Morrison crafts tall poetry with an XL talent and the assessing gaze of an expert onlooker, poems with an all – over texture — part chamois and part steel wool.  With an eye for detail and a bottom line that takes language for a ride, Morrison doesn’t keep it level and moving at one speed but guns it, puts it through loops and dives and steep climbs, reeling into witty, often very funny poems full of simplexity, kidding and not kidding at once I am jealous of the dead for / their reduced workload as he strives to make sense of life.

Every line feels cared about, really meant, subjected to crash – testing, even moments of heart – rending beauty.  If there’s an overriding theme it is that of an Everyman filled with the aspiration for recognition and personal ripening; a drive toward self – acceptance and fulfillment, always wondering how to shake the feeling that you’re always one day late.  These poems acknowledge the ever -present possibility of failure, conflicts never quite resolved, the high cost of breaking even, how a howl won’t heal the / scar, but it helps the  / bleeding, lights a match, that even if we fail, we must keep trying to fail better.

Morrison’s poems reference a wide range of interest in and knowledge of science, ancient history, music, and pop culture. He’s one of those rare writers who appear to know a lot about a lot, whose work puts a contemporary spin on the classical ideal of poetry as both informational and highly entertaining: serious poetry that doesn’t crush us with high seriousness.

Though many of the poems are political, they’re never the God – awful preachy diatribes that John Keats loathed for their having a palpable design on us.  Morrison doesn’t take an

I – know – better – than – you proselytizing tone with us.  He never looks down from above.

Too many poets these days seem not to have read much poetry, are unfamiliar with the history of the form and content, and have not absorbed the lessons of the masters — and for that, there’s a tangible hollowness in their work.  Morrison has done his homework: Look at this excerpt from his “Care to Join?” — a mordant, satiric take on crowd behavior in all its wonted irrationality worth chapters of sociological analysis.

As the mad group inevitably becomes large and wealthy and powerful and sooner / or later starts to rot from the / inside out, everyone in it

                      starts to lose their

          humanity, starts to get paranoid

          and brutal, starts to lose their ability to

          recognize bad choices and

          repulsive behavior, and starts to think

          that they are better than anyone else, and that

          anyone not in the group isn’t worth a

          damn, and they become this huge slobbering

          thing that just eats and shits and eats and shits

          and eats, and sooner or later this group becomes like

          a drunken sumo wrestler, so that it either topples itself

          or is brought down by a smaller leaner more determined

          foe, who then begins to eat and shit and eat and shit, and

          we never learn anything

          and it just goes on forever and makes you lose faith in

          the human race, so no, thanks, I’d just as soon not join.

Remind you of anyone?  Think Jonathan Swift, his vitriolic disgust for the Yahoos.

Lastly, I want to recommend this poet for the variety of his craft. Morrison is able to write lines that free – fall through history, clutching at twigs of the long – gone and the passing – by to render moments of deep resonance and beauty.  There’s something for everyone, every taste: a splendid sonnet, “Unlikely Sonnet;” “Camaro,” a poem in perfect tetrameter; poems that show a fine ear for unobtrusive rhyme; and the wild and surprising wordplay of “Drums Along the Interstate.”

Definitely one of the best new books of poetry, a must read.

                                                                           — Ted Bookey