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Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: The Uncertainty Principle

A Certain Kind of Poetry

The Uncertainty Principle, by Mark Kraushaar
The Waywiser Press, 2011.
Review by Debrah Lechner

Sweet Holy [______ ] (your choice of divine—but completely politically correct—descriptor here) Kraushaar’s poems rock. I’m going to drop the some of the standard poetic analysis here, not because Kraushaar’s work doesn’t live up to it—it certainly does—but because it is so organic, has such spontaneity, such a gut-punch of recognition, that I feel freed to do so. While I’m in the grip of this strong sense of permission, I’m going to use it to use a few words that some poets might consider anathema when applied to their work: effortless, narrative, characterization, and fun.

The narrative quality of this poetry and the convincing characterization of the many portraits this poet paints creates an effortless reading experience, and that causes an impact that strikes with maximum speed and potency. It’s a little like taking a drug intravenously rather than swallowing it. And it’s fun to read aloud; it’s poetry that is meant to be shared.

Although the poems are fun to read aloud that does not mean that the subject matter is not serious. It is. The emotion evoked is sometimes throat-closing, and the forms used are varied, well-conceived and essential to each poem. Here is one poem quoted in its entirety, Chris St. George:

My best friend said once,
my best friend said in ninth grade homeroom
to that rigidly grinning Mr. Sonny Sewell whose
flat-topped head seemed cemented to his
yard-wide shoulders, Coach – because
Mr. Sewell preferred to be “Coach”
in or out of class – Coach, my friend said
to this big-bottomed, thick-legged lug who’d clap
once before pulling down our world-map,
who’d clap once before speaking, who’d clap
once before sitting or standing or starting
study hall or football or civics,
Coach, my best friend said,
first wetting his lips,
then raising his hand and then standing
and leaning forward and knitting his brow,
Coach, he said to this Mr. Sonny Sewell who swore
he’d slap any boy he caught crying in his locker room,
Coach, my friend said, this brilliant and lovely
and lonely kid whose mother drank Clorox
and died in her kitchen, Coach,
my friend said, who ten years later,
to find God, after trying everything else,
jumped in front of a semi in Richmond Virginia,
Coach, my friend said, first clearing his throat,
and then raising his hand and suddenly standing, Coach,
he said, in football, in the game of football,
why is there so much pushing?

This poem flows like water over rocks, pooling and deepening, finally diving into itself; in the last line it comes up for air with a moment that was at one time humor, still is humor, but now is also an apex of love, rage, and loss. I’ll never forget this poem.

And I’ll be reading it out loud to a few more selected people.

The Uncertainty Principle won the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize in 2010. Mark Kraushaar has another book of poetry in print, Falling Brick Kills Local Man, which is available at booksellers now. The Uncertainty Principle will be released January 28, 2012 and is available for pre-order through

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