Poetry Review: A Man of Verse for Better or Worse
(Column: Ward Stories)
An insightful look into a poet's world
As many of you know, I have been the poetry editor of New York City Voices since 1997 and I relish this job and am always gratified by the wonderful submissions I receive. Usually I am content to stay in my little poetry corner and share a few lovely poems with you in each issue—some sad, some funny, always thought provoking. But in this issue I am donning another hat—that of poetry book reviewer.
It is with pleasure that I tell you about a 2004 collection of poetry titled A Man of Verse for Better or Worse by Stephen J. Fernbach, which is both unique and universal. One of the characteristics of a "true poet" is the ability to reveal himself through his poetry. Here, after a thorough reading of Mr. Fernbach's poems, the reader comes away with insight into the poet's world, and can empathize with much of what he is feeling. This is a bird's-eye view of Mr. Fernbach's day-to-day life: grappling with loneliness, the search for a soulmate, and how faith can ultimately save you. But, remarkably, these poems are richer in hope and joy than they are steeped in despair.
One might assume that with poem titles such as The Untouchable with its first line, "I live in my own little world/trying to escape my private hell," Hamlet, Chasing Windmills and Looking at a Van Gogh, the poet is mired in self-pity but, surprisingly, he is able to pull himself up by the bootstraps in every situation and in most every poem!
The poet is at his absolute best when dealing with his familial setting. It can be gleaned from the scenarios depicted that Mr. Fernbach has grown up with both a father and stepfather, a mother he loves dearly, and a tragic death in the family. While many poets hide their emotions behind obscure language, Mr. Fernbach is unabashedly honest. Particular examples of this are the last few lines of Tribute to My Step-Dad, Max, which state: "Although you don't like my father/He feels indebted to you/For taking care of the family." Again, this poet takes you right into his living room and makes you feel welcome there.
Mr. Fernbach is not without his whimsical forays. His exuberant optimism can be seen in Loud Cloud and Angel Smoking Dope. Also, he does what many poets don't dare attempt these days—rhyming—and he does it with ease, allowing himself to take risks with both form and content.
This book can be purchased online at www.amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, or www.publishamerica.com. It is a worthwhile collection.