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Nolcha Fox’s "Review of 'Selected Poems: The Director’s Cut' " by John Yamrus



I met John Yamrus through an online forum. I was a newbie in the poetry world, published for about a year. John invited forum members to contact him with questions and comments. So, I did, with no idea of who he was. Or what he wrote.


As he and I continued to chat, I found out that, over the course of a career spanning more than 50 years as a working writer, John has published 35 books, including poetry, novels, memoirs, and a children's book.


When I asked him which of his books would be a good introduction to his work, John recommended that I buy his latest book, “Selected Poems: The Director’s Cut.”


When the book arrived, I was shocked at how thick it was. Was I ever going to get through it in my lifetime? I read the first poem, and I was hooked. I finished the book in one sitting. How is that possible? John’s poems are compact. He sucked all the fat off, including imagery and capitalization. All that’s left are the bones. Excellent bones.


he asked me


how do i write a poem, and

when do i know

that it’s

done.


that was a

fair enough question,


so i gave him

a fair enough answer.



i told him

that i write it all down.


i write it all

down


and

start cutting.


i keep cutting

till i hit

bone,


and

when i do,


there’s your

poem.



“The Director’s Cut” isn’t a book. It’s a gift box full of wonders and surprises. So, sit on the floor with me while we unpack this box.


Believe me, you should sit on the floor. One of the trademarks of John’s poetry is surprise endings, and you don’t want to fall down laughing like I did. A poem might bubble over with memories, and end with a swift punch of reality, such as:


you lay in bed and


there’s a train whistle somewhere

off in the distance and

it takes you back

to a place and

a time you

don’t

even care to remember

where it was or

when.


back to a place with dirty sheets

and dust in the corners and

under the bed and you

start thinking about

why and who and

where and

how


and you know it doesn’t really matter

because there will always be trains

and beds and sheets and the sun

coming up as you wait

for another day

that’ll bring you that much closer to

whatever it is that’s out there,

waiting to

finally


do you

in.



I love the poems he writes to and about his wife. They are unabashedly, nakedly honest, and John clearly adores her.


"stop opening things with your teeth,”


she

said.


“number one,

you’ll break a tooth.


number two...


well,

it’s just a

nasty, ugly habit.

and i don’t

like it,


so,

cut it out.”


she

was right.


she

always is.


“besides,

when you do

something stupid like that


it makes you

look like an ass-hat.”


i

couldn’t

argue with

logic like that.


so,

i put it

on the table,


thinking

maybe this time


i actually bit off

more than i could chew.



You’ll find poems that shrug their shoulders at everyday realities like fishing, weeds, relationships, housework, and drinking beer. If you’re looking for answers, John won’t give you the pleasure, although he might pose some funny possibilities.


he kept her picture


in a drawer

next to the bed


and every now and then

would take it out

and look at it,


hard,


like it held

all the answers.


it didn’t matter

that the picture

was more than forty years old,


and she was a no-good,

squeezing bitch.


no,

what mattered was


a man’s

always got to have


a

dream,


and this

was

his.



I don’t know a poet who doesn’t write about writing (including rejections, poetry readings, interviews, and other writers). If I ever had the balls to respond to a rejection of my poetry, I’d definitely send the editor one like this:


"Dear John:


Concerning your most recent poem...

as always, it’s engaging

and technically correct,

but you’re beginning to sound a bit

one-note to me.


How about trying a poem

that isn’t about other people’s poetry –

or, better yet,

a poem that doesn’t even mention poetry?”


hi;

i’m writing to you

to let you know

i appreciate your concern

for my literary safety...

but, poems are like cookies...

sometimes you just get cravings

for one particular type.


right now,

i’m into chocolate chip.



that being said,

in taking your comments to heart,

i went back and checked...

i’ve sent you

exactly 39 poems,

13 of which

are about the writer’s life,

or writing.


i have no real defense for that.


i’m afraid i AM a writer,

and the only subject matter i have

is me.


however,

that still gives you

26 other poems to consider.


you can also

be happy in knowing

that of those 26 poems,

there’s not one mention of writing...


there are also:

zero unicorns

zero faeries

zero dappled daisies

zero mentions of cutting my wrists

zero use of the words “life sucks”

and zero poems entitled:


"Life, Love or Death."


you can also

feel confident of

finding poems that talk about

picking my nose,

going to the fridge for a beer

and watching my dog take a dump.


thanks for your continued interest...

best...

always...

john



Then there are his dog poems (I’m a dog mom, I think they’re wonderful). This is one of my favorites:


the neighbor’s dog


is

old


and

deaf.


she

sleeps all day,

pees

on the rug


and

throws up


every chance she gets.


i

promise

i won’t do that poet thing


and

compare

myself to her.


i can’t.


i’m

not deaf yet,


and

it’s been weeks

since i even came close


to

peeing on the rug.



John knows how to portray the joys of aging and impending death, for example:


i never thought i’d


end

this way.


chronic pain

24/7.


it

hurts to move, it

hurts to sit, it

hurts to

breathe.


that wasn’t supposed

to be me.


i expected to be

hitting my 60s

fully formed.


the crazy old guy

who hit all

the elevator buttons

and ran.


never,

no way

did i expect

for this to happen.


but,

that’s okay.


you

play the

hand you’re dealt.


besides,

inside

i still am

that guy

i wanted to become.


and

whoever’s

responsible

for that other thing...


you

and i

gotta talk.



The shiniest treasure in the gift box is John himself. In his poetry, you’ll find him fearless, funny, realistic, and a man who pours his guts into every poem. Read this book, and you’ll find yourself liking him as much as I do.


***




In a career spanning more than 50 years as a working writer, John Yamrus has published 35 books (29 volumes of poetry, 2 novels, 3 volumes of non-fiction and a children’s book). He has also had nearly 3,000 poems published in magazines and anthologies around the world. A book of his “Selected Poems” was just released in Albania, translated into that language by Fadil Bajraj, who is best known for his translations of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Bukowski, Ginsberg, Pound, and others.


A number of Yamrus’s books and poems are taught in college and university courses. His most recent book is “Selected Poems: The Director’s Cut” (Concrete Mist Press, 542pp).


***

Nolcha’s poems have been published in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, Alien Buddha Zine, Medusa’s Kitchen, and others. Her three chapbooks are available on Amazon. Nominee for 2023 Best of The Net. Editor for Kiss My Poetry and for Open Arts Forum. Interviewer and book reviewer. Faker of fake news.

Website:

“My Father’s Ghost Hates Cats”

“The Big Unda”

“How to Get Me Up in the Morning”

Twitter: @NolchaF

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