November 25, 2008

Review by Eric Greenwell

by Michael Meyerhofer

Briery Creek Press
201 High Street
Farmville, VA 23909
ISBN 978-0977447121
2007, 63 pp., $10.95

In Michael Meyerhofer’s first full-length collection, Leaving Iowa, winner of the Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry, he ventures to drift off the page into a vivid world of dreams and fantasy, were it not for the consistent chain that binds him to the follies and vulnerabilities of being human, anchoring him here, with all of us, in reality. With astounding linguistic awareness, he presents this complex struggle in a very lucid way, conveying concepts as complicated and depthless as the faculty of imagination with comprehensible simplicity (“I grew in its shadow, knowledge that there was something in this world I could not see”). And this relatable quality extends further, as Meyerhofer’s speaker exists in a world no different from our own, full of repairmen, handshakes, haircuts, trips and falls, funerals, sex, mothers, religion and the Trojan War. Meyerhofer embeds these concepts in narratives with a fierce dedication to honesty, sparing not the dour truths of life, acting as a brilliantly diverse and all-inclusive account of human emotion—a voice of humor as well as tragedy.

The first section of this book consists predominately of first person narratives. In “Death, the First Time,” the initial poem in the collection, the reader is exposed to human fragility in an experience laced with familiarity: “I was seven, running across the ice/when I slipped and cracked my skull,/blood bursting like crimson novas…” Physical vulnerability is brought to the forefront. Note that we are not invincible; we have accidents; we break like vases and glasses succumbing to gravity, a force enacted upon all things with no exceptions. Our uniqueness lies in our ability to feel, yearn and improve our state. Unfortunately, life will be cruel and emotionless, constantly thwarting our attempts. This truth adds a profound layer of depth and beauty to Meyerhofer’s prevailing honesty:

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