Book Review

            ... Book Review Page 1                                                                ...Table of Contents                      ...Home                                           ...The Blog Bog                                           

Donald Lev

By Roberta Gould
Flame Tree Press
44 Skea Road, West Hurley, NY 12491
2016, 70 pp., paper, $10.

A collector’s item! Like all of Roberta Gould’s books, only more so. This is dog, very dog, and human, very human.

        She follows me around
         and I give her meat from my mouth
         to keep her happy
         She gives much relief
         from freedom’s space
                 (“Best Friend”)

“To the dogs” suggests the title; as in “America is going to the dogs!’ What can it mean here? In “Off the Road” the poet “could not tell how weary I was/ until three dogs at dusk/ trotted up in the mist to be petted”. The poem concludes with the following stanza:

        All the eyes in the city of millions
        had set off a great need to love
        And I was tired of that old condition

Alongside canine and human life other creatures do exist in these poems. The beautiful poem, “My Cat” (there are two poems so named), about the quick passing of “Alice” (whose photo one would suppose is that on the facing page) begins as an elegy for the old cat, but becomes a meditation on old age.

        all the books read, people gone,
        and I wasn’t hungry
        The world small as a jail

Photographs of various animals, mostly in wooded settings, all from the author’s personal collection, adorn many pages of the book. There is a softness to many of these photos that lend the volume a subtle mixture of eeriness and sweetness that approaches the reader like incense. A poem that very much expresses this “incense” is “Morning Walks.” These lines begin the second stanza:

        The solid road is glazed and we walk cautiously
        Branches as sentinels bowed with the freezing
        Poise transparent arrows

Toward the back of the book comes the big surprise of Lord Byron’s “Epitaph to a Dog” which he’d inscribed on the monument he had built for the dog on his estate. The poem suggests comparisons between human and canine nature in which the human does not come out well. But Lord Byron’s okay. He’d nursed, without fear, the poor dog who’d caught rabies. And Roberta Gould, in her poem “Sleeping Dog” tells us “I didn’t move her from the bed/ though it was the shedding season….// So that’s why I wheeze!” She resolves to try things to mitigate the situation. Nothing works. “Freedom is difficult” she contends.

TO THE DOGS ends up with a very fine photo of Millie, Roberta’s very handsome current dog. But a book of poetry like this never ends. One would ever be drawn to pick it up and draw upon its essences. Roberta Gould is a poet who brings all her senses to her work. In this case the focus is beautifully and lovingly on the familiar.


The Sky Starts At The Ground, by ©CTvM