(Montgomery, AL: New South Books, 2015)
When I came across Andrew Glaze’s new poetry collection, Overheard in a Drugstore, I wasn’t sure what direction the book would take. Eager to learn what the content of the poems consisted of, I went straight for it, skipping the introduction of the first part of the anthology. “Mr. Frost” – the conversational poem that begins the collection – piqued my curiosity as to what the back story of this poem could be. As luck would have it, I turned a few pages and realized the section actually begins with an explanation of how Andrew Glaze and Robert Frost came to know each other: they met while attending a series of poetry student dinners at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. Not only did they know each other, but Frost was able to familiarize himself with Glaze’s poetry. The opening poem is the start of the overarching theme of exchanges, which are being overheard by the speaker. In “Mr. Frost,” the speaker describes the type of person Mister Frost is:
Mister Frost, like most champions of the prize,
was a large person, towering over the miniscule
poets skittering about the local minstrelsy.
After an extensive portrayal, Mr. Frost and the speaker begin to have a conversation about their daily routine and the struggle of what it is to grow old. Mr. Frost is the one who seems to be giving the advice of how they should keep their bodies healthy and strong:
“You’ve got to keep moving,” said Mr. Frost.
“Else your bones will freeze,” agreed the old man.
These two lines portray Glaze’s amusing personality through his use of playful language, as when he says “freeze” after Mr. Frost’s name. He uses such language throughout his poems to lighten the issues being aroused; however, this lightening-of-the-mood is never at the expense of depth.
It leads us to an intellectual form where the poet speaks about common tragic and troubling events that occur, but notices the unnoticed about those events and expresses them in luxurious thought and image. Glaze catalogs his environment: the birds, sun, moon, sky, and rain, but also ghosts, angels, and God. Such ubiquitous images are similar to the way Robert Frost used nature in his own poetry. “Blue Ridge” begins with lists of plants and birds, but uses these beautiful images to speak about the horror of war. The structure of the poem demonstrates the progression from one stanza to the next, building the suspense. It is interesting to see the movement throughout “Blue Ridge” and the technique that Glaze uses to depict such compelling and thought-provoking images. It deals with the subject matter that Glaze is surfacing, in order to bring to light the challenges and issues people face. Even though the poem speaks about a specific war, Glaze hints at the notion that it is referencing all wars, battles, blame:
Two ghostly realms divided
by a mystic ridge, running along between
two terrible fates, like a double brink.
What does it want from us? Pointless to weep,
pointless to blame. The vision clears, rises
like wood smoke, and does not disband.
Here, the speaker portrays war as if it were forged, or a theatrical event, which plays out horribly for both parties – a double-edge sword. It is an event that both involved brought upon themselves, with the consequences staying, hovering. These two stanzas show the relationship between the truth and the repercussions of pointless and unnecessary events such as war. Glaze alludes to the idea of entertainment when speaking about hardship and war without subtracting from the severity of the event.
Another poem, later in the anthology, displays this same idea of hardship and struggle. The poem, “Us,” illustrates the obliviousness of humans:
Lying us, who live off the honesty of animals!
We train ourselves to believe
asylum awaits us in the skies.
These lines insinuate “us,” meaning humans, lead a life of lies which we have chosen for ourselves. Through our stubbornness, we live as if our purpose is to take advantage of the abilities that we were given and somehow wait for death to be the better part of ourselves. The world invites such behavior, but the challenge is for us to overcome such temptations. Glaze develops his poem with a clear outlook on human behavior and thought process.
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Aminah Abutayeb is the Assistant Poetry Editor of The Literary Review. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories and Common Ground Review.