by Peter Dornauf
Good back cover blurb on a ‘real men’ jacket design for this poetry book. Obviously, Dornauf wants poetry to be another spectator sport, with interested bystanders watching as different forms of play evolve, and cheering on the poet, praising his use of ‘ordinary’ language to celebrate ‘ordinary’ things.
I’ve been to a midnight cowboy supper myself and been entertained by cowboy poets, singers and musicians after a rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming, so I know that real men do write poetry. But what kind is it, or ought it to be?
Certainly, out in that real world we all yearn to conquer, observation is a great skill to acquire – to be alert to what’s around us. It’s also one of the primary skills of the poet, and Dornauf has that in bucket loads, and an extensive vocabulary. All of which makes for engaged reading. Yet sometimes he exhibits it in poems that, for me, fall a little short of the target. (In ‘Adjectives,’ for instance.)
I admire Dornauf’s capacity for well-chosen words and phrases, but I do think a poem has to show a little more evidence of construction to deliver meaning than a list of descriptors, however accurate. And when he brings it all together with a purpose he does strike gold. He has an acute awareness of human idiosyncrasy, and what lies around us and beneath the surface of what we say and do.
Occasionally I found myself wishing for a little more old-fashioned lyricism, yet I did end up thinking the claim he made in that back cover blurb was not unfounded – “You’ll not forget these buggers. Some of them anyway.”
Like ‘Silence’ or ‘Sound Advice’ – great fun, this! – ‘Pond Life’ and ‘In the Beginning’ among others will remain with me. ‘Warbler’ in particular demonstrates how much can be done with not many lines of well-chosen words to create a satisfying portrait.
Dornauf handles long poems well (though I would prefer to call them monologues; they’d make excellent performance pieces) and long poems are presently out of favour. It’s like he can think it all through and keep it in the forefront of his mind until he gets it down on paper. An admirable talent. A poem like ‘Rejection’ is almost stream of consciousness, and yes, it does linger, and yes, metaphysical does describe it.
Is Dornauf worth reading? Will you like him? I don’t know.
I did, sort of. Anyone who can call a poem ‘The Man Who Wanted to be a Cup and Saucer’ has my attention.
And I suspect his poems really come to life when they’re read two or three times, and preferably aloud.
PS Doesn’t debutant have an e at the end, and it isn’t lightening that flashes – it’s lightning. Lightening is what you do when you’re mouse-brown and want to be blonde. And why no ISBN on the book?
Author: Peter Dornauf
Publisher: Handmade Press
Available: Print only, from Penny’s, and Poppies bookshops in Hamilton; or from the Author via his website peterdornauf.com