Shawn Sorensen's Reviews > The End of the West

The End of the West by Michael Dickman
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's review
Apr 01, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: poetry

My mother waits for me

breathing easy
having let her hair go
silver, white
longer now

in this
one of her many
afterlives starts the longer title poem at the end of the book. Michael Dickman, unafraid of facing a brutal upbringing, brings us a sparse, symbolic, minimally-punctuated style. What the reader is left with, in the capacious blank spaces, is the depth of human lives lingering around death, sighing at hope.

The poetic and narrative strength here is the narrative of a boy, sometimes young, sometimes in his teens or twenties, slowly backing away from his environment, looking around at bitter contradictions. The pausing - short lines, stanzas and poems - leaves the reader sunken emotionally and with the people in Dickman's earlier life within stark lines. But in stepping into this universe one never feels deceived.

Dickman uses vivid, specific details in each poem, and powerful, open symbolism to bring a decaying world to life.

From the 3rd poem in one of my favorite series, "Returning to Church":

The light through the stained-glass window was snow

Do you want to be home forever?
Its all right if you do

Kiss me in the pew among strangers who aren't strangers but His
other homeless children

The light through the stained-lass window
was snow, not Grace
not Spirit

Not, lightly
His fingers
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Reading Progress

04/01/2009 page 48

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Philip (new) - added it

Philip You just read something else by Michael Dickman, right?

Shawn Sorensen Good question - you probably know that Michael has a twin brother, Matthew, who is an amazing poet as well (Michael was a recent finalist for the Oregon Book Award, Matthew won it). Michael just had his 2nd book of poetry, "Flies", win a big national award. It comes out in early May. Hopefully I can get him up to my bookstore (Barnes & Noble Vancouver, WA) to do another signing. Funny brand of quirky humor in between him reading darker, stark work. An unforgettable performance.

message 3: by Philip (new) - added it

Philip Nope, I didn't know that. I'll have to make sure they're both on my list. There's so much poetry out there, it's always nice to have it recommended to me. I almost always have a poetry book going to some extent. If I don't have anything recommended, I'll go to the library and pick a shorter collection that I've glanced over... or one that has an appealing cover. Neither one of those methods is 100%, but they're not horrible either.

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