Regular Tears in the Fence contributor, John Brantingham has followed up his crime novel, Mann of War (Dark Oak Mysteries 2013) and collection of short stories Let Us All Now Pray To Our Own Strange Gods (World Parade Books 2013) with a collection of poetry, The Green of Sunset from Moon Tide Press.
The Green of Sunset consists of two sequences of prose poems that show the strengths of simplicity and lightness of touch and pitch in creating a memorable collection. They are comparable to Lee Harwood in their clarity and delicacy. Indeed the title poem addressed to an unborn child reminded me of Harwood’s ‘Salt Water’ on the loss of his child. Whereas Harwood deploys an extraordinary restraint and control through his line breaks and hiatuses, Brantingham has no line breaks, speaks directly to the unborn, is restrained, and looks to the simple nourishing things of life as a source of renewal.
These unsentimental prose poems draw upon childhood memories, travels to London, Canada, New York, the Sequoia National Park Trail to Bearpaw Meadow in 1978, 1985 and 2005, the streets and freeways of Los Angeles, and his engagement with the life and poetry of Wilfred Owen to embrace what matters most in life. It is in the broadest sense a work of spiritual resonance with a big American heart. This self-deprecating poet of Los Angeles has a wide reach straddling his ancestral family roots in Yorkshire, the God of Lindisfarne, mountain climbing in California, the impact of seeing Chaucer’s grave or a satellite crossing Orion, praise poems for dogs and insects, all marked and dated with the spit of suggestion and the ‘time and mildew’ that pulls apart.
The Dog, Autumn 1979
Eight days after the operation, I’m walking home by myself when a dog starts to bark at me from behind his gate. I must have heard a dog before then. I must have. But the sharpness of his yelling fills my ears, and he stops me, and I cannot move from the place I’m standing until someone comes out and finds me staring at him and weeping.
The book has a foreword by Donna Hilbert and a cover design by Ann Brantingham. I think that many readers will return to this supple, entertaining and moving collection.