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Table of Contents

Frank Murphy


Focus
by Donald Lev
NYQ Books
P.O. Box 2015
Old Chelsea Station New York, NY 10113

nyq.org

In Focus, Donald Lev’s latest book, Donald once again shows us his mastery of the short poem. These poems (American Haikus with no traffic lights) are often biographical, often humorous, and always skillfully crafted to focus on a world now more than ever cast in fog. Within this miasmic atmosphere Donald’s poem "Patches" points to where his focus lies,

PATCHES

Nothing’s very clear.
Maybe what weather forecasters
Mean by patchy fog.
Thing to do is try to see
Between patches.
A leaf here, a twig there,
A cat with a bird in his mouth,
A parked minivan.

His focus lies between the patches, trying to clear away the blur of fog or the smoke and mirrors of today’s reality. In his poem, "Details," Donald reveals that he has, “no love for details.” However true that may be, he knows how to bring enough details into his poems to suggest worlds.

Details

Like watching your
Own life
Diminish
Upon the monitor
The hospital sets up
To track your oxygen levels.

I have no love for details.
A new doctor I have just been visiting
Handed me a questionnaire asking
How many drinks I had today,
How many yesterday,
And how many the day before.

I know the most
Superb artists
Are masters of description,
Sticklers for detail.

But a little spittle here,
A puff of smoke there,
And worlds are suggested.

Works for me.

It works for us as well, a bit of humor here, a reflection there, a touch of crankiness, and worlds are indeed suggested. When Donald focuses on himself it is often through the lens of perfectly crafted humor. In, "Preparing My Roll," he sees himself playing his self:

Preparing My Role

I try my best to find the motivation
Of the character I was to portray:
An arthritic gaffer who drank wine all day,
Talked to himself, and wrote
Little poems that were poorly disguised
Complaints about his personal aches and pains.

I couldn't find any motivation.
So I just winged it.










Of course, Donald doesn’t exactly wing it. Although he gently mocks his poems as “poorly disguised complaints” he does so with a craftsmanship that is built on years of experience as a poet. Here are two poems illustrating how Donald explores the strange world of old age with a pugilistic humor.

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE

Us 79-year olds
Are taking over.

They wouldn’t let us before,
But now all of them old bastards are gone.

and

Boxing Day

It is Boxing Day
And I am in the ring
With Max Schmeling

We’re in a clinch and he keeps
Apologizing for Hitler,
But also keeps pounding me.

I know he is a more
Experienced boxer than I am
But he is 109 years old
And I am only 78
And I hate losing to such an old guy.

One of my favorite poems in this book is the poem, "Entelechy." For those of you unfamiliar with the word, entelechy has to do with the possible coming together with the actual. For example, random words coming together to create a poem.

Entelechy

From Earth’s rocks
The super-heroic geologist
On viewless wings rises
To the place where divine mischief
Is to be prevented or reversed.

Imagine such a battle!
I can’t.

But I can see possibility
As ants gather at the bottom of a juice glass
Or when a summer afternoon stillness
Brings tears

In this poem, which is both lyrical and deep, Donald takes our focus out of the ordinary and returns us back to the ordinary with the precision an astronomer might use to focus on a distant galaxy.

I’m told, by the blurb on the back cover, that Focus is intended to be a sequel to his last book, “A Very Funny Fellow.” That works for me. As a friend of Donald’s, I have seen him go through grief, misfortune, and all the crazy things living and aging will do to you and still remain a very funny fellow. His last poem in Focus is titled "Footstone." It says it all.

FOOTSTONE

There’s nothing
Not funny.

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