(Published by Gilford Press, New Jersey, USA, and printed by Cyberwit.net, 2006, 99 pages, paperback, US$17.95)
The New American: Selected Poems is an intelligent work by Mary Barnet, with illustrations by Richard E. Schiff (www.RichardSchiff.com). The title of this collection of poetry describes the book quite aptly. In my view, it represents the tradition of Americana - both re-visited and updated. The poetry varies in style and form, including nature romantic, inspirational, social anthropological and socio-political commentary, and both free-style prose poetry and some rhyme. The writing is somewhat deceptive in that M. Barnet has quietly worked hidden layers into many of the poems, that are first revealed after several readings.
This work is full of reflection and description, and without poetic ostentation. Although the author has achieved extraordinary visual imagery and music without requiring the reader to consult a dictionary or thesaurus, many of these poems are carefully tailored pearls that could only have been written by a mature artist. While reading this book I was often reminded of the poetry of Walt Whitman and the music of Charles Ives. While Barnet-Schiff has her own particular literary accent and signature, her adeptness in regards to bringing out the music and imagery of America through varied eyes and voices qualifies her (in my opinion) as a commentator and visionary of contemporary Americana.
I have one minor criticism: the usage of initial caps at the beginning of each line in many of her poems is (for me) somewhat disruptive of the imagery and musicality - forcing me away from the natural flow of the words.
Overall, I would commend the author for a well-written and well-conceived work of art, which especially lends itself to being performed or read out loud to oneself.
I would like to conclude this review with one example from The New American:
The Quiet Time
when you've gone to sleep
is mine like a moon-lit glen
midst the dark forest at night
which steps lightly
all about me in dreams
adjusting our covers
in a rustling of imaginings
open to the darkling hours
that create the lives of my dreams
leaving my eyes full
of sparkling misty sight
bright in the lost minutes
of many an interrupted dream
- Literary criticism (2008) by Adam Donaldson Powell (based upon "The New American", published by Gilford Press, New Jersey, USA, and printed by Cyberwit.net, 2006, 99 pages, paperback).
MARY BARNET (USA) is the founder and editor of PoetryMagazine.com. Her chapbooks include: "Orchidia", "My Father's Shoes" and "Landscape". She has been performing poetry her entire life.