Mid­west­/Mid-East: March 2012 Poet­ry Tour

Michael Dick­el
  • Review
By – February 6, 2014

Dickel’s self-pub­lished vol­ume pro­vides a great exam­ple of the pos­si­bil­i­ties and free­doms avail­able to poets who choose to self-pub­lish. Mid­west­/Mid-East, which com­mem­o­rates a poet­ry tour” Dick­el took through a few Mid­west­ern cities in March 2012, con­tains a wide vari­ety of poet­ry— from prayer, to dis­cur­sive, to nar­ra­tive, to polit­i­cal, to sen­su­al, to social. There are short poems, long poems, sequences; a recipe poem, dra­mat­ic mono­logues, haiku, son­nets, Whit­man­ian long lines. Dickel’s influ­ences are just as var­i­ous — in some poems, with his close atten­tion to the nat­ur­al world, he recalls Emer­son, while else­where, as he turns toward explo­rations of the body and the sex­u­al self, he is rem­i­nis­cent of Sharon Olds. 

Dick­el has inlaid black-and-white photo­graphs on the same page as some of the poems. The pho­tographs seem to be of a low­er res­o­lu­tion than the poems, with their often love­ly imagery. The pho­tographs direct read­ings of these poems in a way that seems not always desirable. 

Dick­el is best when he is most root­ed in a spe­cif­ic time or place. Lines like, The young woman every young man desired dies in the night,” with its lulling rep­e­ti­tion and sto­ry­teller-like tone, feel near­ly Bib­li­cal. Oth­er moments, like this some­thing out of nothing­ness,” feel too abstract to make mean­ing of. Per­haps because of this ten­den­cy toward over-con­tem­pla­tion, Dickel’s short poems feel more suc­cess­ful, with their won­der­ful sense of com­pres­sion and cohe­sion. The eight-line poem Autumn Milk­weed,” for exam­ple, begins beau­ti­ful­ly: When I die, bury my body / amid a pile of leaves, / then go home.”

Lucy Bie­der­man is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of cre­ative writ­ing at Hei­del­berg Uni­ver­si­ty in Tif­fin, Ohio. Her first book, The Wal­mart Book of the Dead, won the 2017 Vine Leaves Press Vignette Award.

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