Score: 87/100 (8.7 out of 10)
From Dusk to Dawn: The Vicissitudes of Life by Henry Krauss is one of the most beautiful poetry books of the season—a book that encapsulates many of the changing seasons of life, per the title.
Presentation-wise, this is the clear frontrunner among the poetry books this season. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's the best of those books this season, but we'll get to that in a moment. Right now, we wanted to first talk about what makes this book so beautiful: the images. And not just the images, but the way in which those images are used. They are presented to us on one cover page (of each poem), then juxtaposed onto the poems themselves. Its a brilliant concept and really helps to elevate this book in terms of presentation.
But this book isn't just beautiful in a superficial way, it serves as a memorial and an homage to many of the great people the author knew and loved, many of whom endured times such as the Great Depression and World War II. They are members of “the greatest generation.” The book also includes poems of deep and powerful topics such as terminal illness, namely cancer, coping with tough times, and enduring loss. There are also poems in here like Time and Microcosm-Macrocosm that are beautifully symbolic and reflective in an existential sense. You can practically feel the poet observing the natural world and thinking about how it speaks to such things as the existence of a higher power or meaning. The poet takes such simple, mundane things as icicles and a coffee table, then can make them mean something. That's a poet for you!
There are some things about this book that hold it back a little bit. First of all, unlike books by Anthony Toomer and Tony Caico, these poems lack some of the exciting things we like to see like rhyming and beats. Well, there is a distinct beat to many of these poems, but it usually very abrupt and choppy. That can work, and it actually kinda does, but it really is a matter of taste for us. It just wasn't as fun or interesting to us. That's subjective though. So like, we'd take a ghazal poem over a haiku any day. That's a matter of taste.
Speaking of the abrupt and choppy nature of these poems, let's look at one example, What Counts?
His face is deeply wrinkled
Bones crooked and broken
Bald, no teeth
How do we view this man?
Past? Present? future? Or ALL?
On the plus side, though, the poet demonstrates one aspect of poetry that's very important: the economy of language. You aren't supposed to write a lot when it comes to poetry. You aren't supposed to turn it into prose, and the author definitely understands that. He can say a lot in very little words.
Another thing that we caught was that there are several grammatical mistakes or inconsistencies in this book. Perhaps a proofreader, editor, or even just a beta reader could've caught it. The main one is the inconsistent use of commas. We could've given the author a break if he'd just stayed consistent, choosing one style or another. There is a time at the end of the poem Gennie that both a period and a comma are used along with a quotation mark. Why is there a comma at the end of the word born instead of a period in To the Manor Born?
Why are there commas around the word dad in the poem Dad, and why is the second comma outside the quotation mark? The same issue applies to the phrase “pipe of the day” in that same poem. The comma should go inside the quotation mark. The exclamation mark should also go inside the “peace pipe” quote.
There's also a time in Outside Looking In in which the quotation mark is double-spaced and facing the wrong way, being joined to the wrong word.
There are times, like in Pop, when he sometimes chooses to use a period at the end of a line or sentence and sometimes doesn't. You really need to choose as a writer and stay consistent with these things. You're either going to use punctuation or you're going to use alternatives like line breaks (which are common in poetry).
Our favorite poem in this whole book is probably the shortest in the whole book: Birds. In only about two lines, the author makes a ton of social commentary that seems directed at Republican political leadership. How we got that from just two lines about a seemingly innocuous subject matter like birds in a flying-V formation is due to the masterful work of the poet. We just wish there wasn't a random hyphen thrown in there, but we digress.
Anyway, this book of poetry is presentation-wise one of the better poetry books of this season full of poetry books. It also packs a punch while adhering to the economy of language.
Check it out on Amazon!