In Michael Kasenow’s latest collection of poetry, the author reflects on the personal, the political, and the intersection where these themes meet. He examines the effects of social ills—like abuse, addiction, and capitalist excess—as well as the sorrow of lost love through a myriad of distinct voices and viewpoints. This allows for some clever use of folksy diction and dialect that imbues the poems with a welcome bit of whimsy.
As such, Kasenow’s verses sometimes take the form of an old ballad or sea chantey, with repeated lines that act as a chorus. In the tale of “Drunken Sailors,” the lines “It’s haul away, haul away All the way home” close out each stanza. In a bittersweet ode to a beloved cat, the speaker repeatedly assures the animal that “You can sleep with me any time you want.” Kasenow’s speakers are varied and surprising—aimless drifters, Lilith from the Bible, a child with an abusive father, and Jesus righteously confronting Pontius Pilate.
A remarkable piece of absurdity called “Straightjacket Blues” scorns shallow superficiality, featuring lines like “Tattoos, drugs, rings in the nose,/ A handful of dick in the garden hose.” In another, the poet shares a table at a diner with a fly named Macbeth. Other poems, like “Preacher Parson’s Easter Sermon,” provide homespun wisdom on the important things in life.
Kasenow’s figurative language is occasionally trite and does not always withstand scrutiny. “Scars are like tattoos,” he says. Well, yes, that is the point of tattoos: they ARE scars. “Beauty is such a pretty thing” is a meaningless tautology. A description of the desert as “flat as nowhere and miles of it” is more original, and the lovestruck notion that “Mirrors complain how much they miss her” is sweet. The poet is often too devoted to rhyme at the expense of quality; free verse was invented to squelch clunky phrasing.
SOMETHING’S BOUND TO HAPPEN is a little uneven. Kasenow is at his best when he sheds his moralistic opining in favor of pure imagination and surrealist play.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader