Poems of Creative Mischief
Abandoned Homeland by Jeff Gundy
If there be anything curious, anything playful, anything vital noodling just beneath the quiet surface—think on these things. Or ask a question about them. Or make some poems that do both, as Jeff Gundy does in Abandoned Homeland. Gundy’s settings are suburban neighborhoods, classrooms, occasional sojourns to the woods or lakeshore, and several times the poet acknowledges that none of these are on the surface “exotic”—“I’ve lived my life in safe places, not at risk except for boredom and its associated disorders,” says the speaker in “Safety.” But out of this well-walked ground, Gundy unearths a remarkable number of things worth beholding in good light. Many of these poems are titled “Contemplation with” or “Meditation on” something, and whether that thing be swine flu, carnality, or an old Honda, the poet cannot stop speculating and questioning: “Say Jesus had a wife.” “Consider the blind man’s point of view.” “What is the opposite of guitar?” Speaking of guitar—which graces the cover of this book and several poems in it—here’s a Gundian nugget to prompt a shot of wonder: “Not every tree has a guitar in it. But some do.” Some trees hold guitars, and some classrooms are visited by the ghost of Marie Antoinette, and some “bathrooms and churches” contain a respectable man on the verge of creative mischief: “I’m tired of being available. And polite…. / I’m ready to be a bad wizard, to change morons / into moonshine, dutiful drudges into parsley, solid citizens into Corvettes and cottonmouths.” If, like the speaker in many of these poems, you’ve “yearned to be taken, to be troubled and amazed,” here you will find your spiritual bedfellow—another would-be bad wizard.
—Reviewed by Jen Hinst-White
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