I just got a very kind review of my new book, "The Rose Shipwreck" (the review will appear in the November issue of Midwest Book Review). Here's the review.
THE ROSE SHIPWRECK: POEMS AND PHOTOGRAPHS, BY CHRISTOPHER BERNARD
A review by D. Donovan, eBook Editor, Midwest Book Review
The Rose Shipwreck: Poems and Photographs opens with an introduction that assesses what a poem is, what it isn't, and how it functions in the literary and social world, offering a few starting points to the discussion: "A poet is sometimes never more sincere than when he is telling you lies about himself. Sincerity is not his business: exploration and experimenting with ideas and emotions is."
This and other revelations survey the mercurial nature of the poet and his craft and serve as a fitting preface to Christopher Bernard's collection, with his first piece offering a different version (in verse) in 'Preface by a Word Drunk [the rude version]' : "…maybe he is so mercurial/precisely because, alone, / he is firm on that upon which / everything else reposes, / everything else emerges, / a tendril of the secret root / of the Self of the world: / his own." The contrast between verse and prose and the changed meanings resulting from form are thus reinforced through a contrast that highlights how cadence and images can be restructured and changed through the use of verse. Through this single example the differences between prose and poetry are highlighted in a manner even non-poets (or those less familiar with verse) can readily understand.
Despite a truly powerful introduction which winds from essay format to poem, Bernard's true poetic talents really shine in 'The Rose Shipwreck,' a poem replete with gorgeous images and twists of pen: "Such a shipwreck of flowers—a petaled wreck / on an azure sea, of blood-red salmon / stained with peach, with a steady clear / tolling of deep bells under a sheer blue sky / half-deafened in the gale—flowers staining / the sea in disintegrating color…"
It's in this poem that Bernard's abilities to create surreal, color-charged landscapes shrouded with emotion really stand out: it's at once an account of journeys, a voyage of discovery, and a call to action: "Shall we build our ships of roses and brave the sea, / that rose of fire, garden where winds take root / and grow into forests?"
It's after this second poem that the first photograph appears: a picture of a wall of street art in SoHo, New York. Bernard's photos center on urban scenes and topics from New York to San Francisco, from street art and graffiti to images of a rainbow over Coit Tower in San Francisco. The poems that precede and follow are appropriate melds to the images, successfully solidifying the image's art ('Wind' follows this photo - and the impression of movement is thus visually reinforced).
From first-person reflections to some striking pairings, such as the silhouette of 'Cat at Window' with the equally evocative 'The Peeping God' ("He peers between the shadows of the blinds / the clouds draw across him in the sunlight"), these poems discuss everything from religion and social issues to life's ironies and inconsistencies.
Woven through the tapestry of visual and verbal art are themes of collapse, reincarnation, and discovery that draw fine lines between individual and social experience.
This haunting juxtaposition of verse and photos shouldn't be missed by any who appreciate urban images, poetry, and art.