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by Justin Calderone 

"There are two types of creative people in the world," says Justin Calderone in the foreword to Revolutions, and proceeds to liken himself to Ludwig van Beethoven. What he means, apparently, is that he writes poetry only when he feels inspired.

Mr Calderone describes this collection as a poetic diary, and the sections are titled with dates and seasons rather than any thematic link. Before each section, he tells us (roughly) what he was feeling at that point in his life, and the introductions are accompanied by childish coloured drawings in a further attempt to sum things up. These little chapter headers could be described as prose poems, and the illustrations are a clue to the complexity behind the writer’s deceptively simple words, hinting at his true personality.

Although he denies putting any effort into revising his work, the poems are not unstructured or without thought. The concern with rhythm and rhyme often results in pleasing images: "Out there/Is the time/I tried to leave" They are poems that can bear to be read out loud, and, despite the occasional straying into cliché ("my youthful front porch summers"), there is both inventiveness and recognisable meaning behind them – something that will come as a relief to those of us who have ploughed through many an acre of clever and polished verse in search of hidden messages.

It would be only fair to remark that, despite the introduction, there are times when one doubts that Mr Calderone was at his most inspired. 12/3/02, for example, does not seem to have been a day when his poetic muse was performing at her peak; nor was 3/18/03 one of her better days. As for 4/1/03, I feel it would have been more effective to allow the spiritual aspect of these poems to remain understated rather than straying into the territory of the Victorian hymnbook.

1/31/04, on the other hand, is an example of the fluency that comes from genuine inspiration, when the author forgets his obsession with rhyming couplets and gives free rein to his instinctive powers of expression. This is not to say that the poem could not, technically, have been improved upon if he had wanted to lavish more attention on it. As it stands, it is merely an honest and moving piece of work.

I don’t think Justin Calderone will ever be recognised as the poetic equivalent of a Beethoven or a Mozart; but I do think many people will enjoy reading his poems and hearing them read. Judging by his photograph, he is a young man (much younger than the world-weary soul suggested by some of the poems), and could easily go on to excel in other genres. I wish him all the luck in the world.


ISBN 0 9754533 2 7
LBF, 2004
80pp, illustrated paperback
Retail price $14.95

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Review by Deborah Fisher