Gary Siegel, one of the Hudson Valley’s preeminent spoken-wordsters, overcomes many of the difficulties met when transferring oral poetry to the page, producing a poetry collage that evokes a local feel, while exploring themes that are nothing short of universal. Those difficulties would stem from the poet failing to back up the vocal intonations and rhythms of a spoken piece with the actual written semantics of the work. Thankfully Siegel’s mastery of his craft has him infusing his words with those vocal nuances; nothing is lost when the poetry is read on paper. By thus supporting the reading audience’s perception of the work, he is able to easily convey the themes which he explores.
These themes include those specific and pointed to those that broadly address the human condition. In the poem “Parched” he tackles the ageless philosophical debate on the true nature of beauty. The moral struggle between what we desire and what is right is argued in “Nothing Changes”. A number of nods to eastern philosophy and Buddhist spiritual views give the thematic direction of the work a subtle loftiness which practically demands reflection.
Even with all this textual richness, IN THE CRADLE OF SILENCE stands as more than just a collection of lyrical and erudite pieces, but rather as a fully-imagined sculpture of words and images. Random photos appear throughout the text, some with obvious thematic ties to the poems they sit adjacent to, some who’s ties are obscure if there at all. Small, simple graphic elements illuminate the poems like drawn punctuation marks, and various one- and two-liners punch up the overall rhythm of the work.
So with all these positive elements going for the poetry collection why would Siegel, whether intentionally or not, seem to talk down to his audience? In one of, if not the only detrimental facet to the collection, there seems to be a need to “explain” everything to the reader. It starts with the work’s subtitle – “Inner and Outer Journeys through Beauty, Pain, Laughter, Reverie and the Infinite” – which is nothing more than a clunky ten-dollar definition of poetry. His author’s note morphs from a simple origins story into something that reads like an instruction manual. Siegel would do best to trust his readers to be intelligent enough to understand and form their own views of his work, and that his own work is well-constructed and well-written enough that any reader will need not be told how to approach it.
With artful wordcraft, erudite composition and an overall cohesion of the collection as an artistic whole, Gary Siegel’s IN THE CRADLE OF SILENCE is poised to attract the universal reading audience it so deserves.
~Johnny Masiulewicz for IndieReader