August 12, 2008

Review by Allen Taylor

by Bruce Spang

Snow Drift Press
P.O. Box 205
Bristol, ME 04539
ISBN: 0-9661678-3-X
73 pages, $10

Bruce Spang is gay. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. It matters because he wants you to know, and he goes to great pains to spell it out for you more than once. The poems in The Knot are personal, revelatory, endearing, and full of human feeling. But they aren’t brilliant.

Many of the poems in The Knot suffer from one, or a combination, of several weaknesses. For the most part, they are too vernacular. At times, as when he is discussing the care of irises or looking for Spanish Fly in his father’s armoire, this succeeds, but those successes are rare treats.

Another problem with Spang’s verse is his tendency to rely on the unimaginative “I.” Only five poems are not written in first person. Considering that many of the poems in The Knot lean toward narrative prose, that doesn’t say much for his versatility as a poet. It says even less about his ability to transcend the circle of his own synaptic sparks and approach the universal, the traditional realm of the poet. Even confessional poetry needs to, from time to time, reach beyond self-centered tropes, but Spang doesn’t stray far enough from his own experience to encourage empathy.

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