The Herald by Dean J Baker
Review by Val B. Russell
Every book of poetry is an invitation to climb inside the poet’s sensibility, to view the world through the introspection self through others. The subject matter is diverse, not always traversing the usual emotional terrain. Of course the best poetry is that which affects and caresses the spirit of the reader, stripping the human condition bare naked to examine the stunning beauty as well as the hideously ugly blemishes of love and life on this planet.
The broadness of the interpretation of any poem is determined by the skill of the poet coupled with a willingness to be revelatory. In Dean J. Baker’s volume of poetry The Herald, revelation and skill are in abundance. There is an emotional flourish to his verse when discussing love, sex and relationships that is dramatic and bold and fully necessary when doing the walk through the dark alleys of love, loss and renewal. There are no halfway journeys to self understanding in this book. All expressions are extreme and fiery, sometimes caustic, many times witty and always brutally honest. Dean Baker writes poetry for both fools and angels; those with an insatiable curiosity to live life despite the painful consequences, simply because the reward is a depth of understanding you can acquire no other way.
On one page a chronicle of heart aching loneliness, on the next, wary and astute observations of the motives of others, cheeky, flirty and lusty odes to past loves, wounds replete with blood and guts awaiting the final dirge until you reach the last page where a healing through wisdom has taken place silently right under your nose, as in the poem Invitation:
You’ve caught me with
my suicide mask wearing thin-
Death, an old sidekick
and various forms of unrequited love;
strike the bone of the ghost-rdden
music that echoes in the
hollow of my heart
Interspersed throughout the text you will also find words like stinging scorpions, a criticism aimed with deadly accuracy at a society determined to destroy art with the superficiality and disregard for anything not associated with greed, status or instant gratification, such as in the poem Allegorical Imperatives:
Accomplices to the culture still-born, these
picayune mediocrities forge no sense
of self: damage or display apologists
You do well to beware such politics;
domestic confederates, nationalist failures:
the talented and their imitators
The Herald is more than a volume of poetry, it is a fight with words, where the pugulist punches his way out of himself and into an emotional liberation. My only criticism of this book is that it isn’t fatter with more poems but that being said, the quality of writing is astounding and it only whets the reader’s appetite for much more.
Dean J. Baker is a poet, satirist, songwriter and talented musician. He has traveled extensively, making him an astute observer and adept critic of human nature. He can be found blogging here: deanjbaker.wordpress.com and you can purchase his books here: deanjbaker.com