title: From Where I Stand
author: Robert Zimmerman
buy it: Amazon
rating: 4.5/5 [in the genre] or 7/10 [all books I’ve ever read].
recommended for: Fans of Charles Bukowski or Walt Whitman. Fans of concrete, image-based poetry. Anyone in rough straits.
From Robert Zimmermann comes From Where I Stand, an emotional debut poetry collection. Zimmermann explores strained parental relationships, loss of life, and the despair associated with grief. Alongside these darker themes, he delves into the small areas of life that often go unnoticed but become the hope we are searching for.
the basicsI don't read a lot of contemporary poetry. I just don't think to. I catch it a lot in the literary magazines that I subscribe to, but otherwise, my free time goes to fiction. However, I'm very pleased to have had time for this awesome collection by a good friend, Robert Zimmerman. No relation to Bob Dylan. His poems are imagistic and raw. They tell stories around concrete images. Suits. Gravestones. Super Nintendo. Even the Gilmore Girls. It's a very modern group of poems that connects with all sorts of deep emotions. The connections between them are sometimes tenuous, sometimes very obvious, creating a collection that tells a vague, huge story that becomes clearer and clearer every time you read. It's mesmerizing.
the detailsRob's poetry is the best when it's at its most concrete, and there are so many beautiful examples of this in this collection. "When I was a child, / I was a general / commanding plastic soldiers" from "Childhood Fantasy." "The air has a lingering smell of static" from "Calm After a Storm." "[T]he back of my eyelids / replay the morning's masterpiece" from "Benefit of a Morning Walk." I could list more, but I'd be quoting an infringing amount of the collection. Zimmerman just has a gift for creating images that punch you in the gut and stick with you. Clear, concrete, real. Like a William Carlos Williams wheelbarrow kind of image.
Then, there is the emotion. The defiance of expectations. Zimmerman combines unusual images and formats together to create surprising pieces that make you look at the subject matter in a completely new light. My favorite example of this is "Together Forever", a brief and powerful look at self-medication in question and answer format. Or "Your Blue Suit", distilling the memories of a lost grandfather into the singular image of his left-behind suit, now worn by the grandson. His poems turn subjects around and look at them from unusual angles, making for refreshing emotional observations.
So why not a perfect score? I think that lies in my personal tastes. Where poetry is concerned, I'm an old-fashioned gal. I worship Tennyson, Yeats, and Baudelaire. Modern free verse isn't always as compelling to me as more structured poems, so it takes a lot to really catch me. I mean, I'm not even a really huge fan of Whitman, even though I can see why people like him. So take this into account. Because maybe you love Whitman and blank verse and, in that case, this collection will wow you! But even though it's not all my style, I can see amazing potential in this group of poems. What it lacks in certain technical matters, it makes up for in painterly wordings and intense emotional quality.
take home messageA beautiful commentary on life and death from unexpected angles.
Note: I received this copy free from the author. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected my stated opinions.