December 6, 2007

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Ocean Effects, by Brendan Galvin, Louisiana State University Press, 2007, 79 pages)
Reviewed by Dan Szczesny news@hippopress.com

Veteran poet Brendan Galvin returns with another typically unique collection of poetry in Ocean Effects, a satisfying group of long-form lyric poems, mostly written in the fictional first person of a variety of historical figures.

There’s a lot going on in this collection.

Seascapes and the natural world are always a part of Galvin’s vision, and that’s true in his new book. In the title poem, the narrator gazes out along the frozen docks of a fishing village, seeing the oily water, counting the boats waiting to be moored, counting “the draggers just to be sure” none had gone down in the cold.

In Ocean Effects, Galvin’s narrators vary from colonist Roger Williams to a peasant in the ruins of Chernobyl to a Russian general. And in most cases, the natural world is their subject matter.

In the long poem “These Little Town Blues,” Galvin paints a vivid portrait of small-town Cape Cod through the eyes of several of the town’s police chiefs and sergeants. More short story than poem, it’s a good illustration of Galvin’s ability to sum up big themes with few words.

In one section Sgt. Newton comments bitterly on the Cape’s draw as a tourist destination: “New Age lizards, washashores, blow-ins, / if they’re loose they roll to Cape Cod / any time the country tilts this way, / because Florida’s too far, too big a drain / on their concentration.”

Galvin’s tales told through the narration of explorers, fishermen and even members of the Corps of Discovery might not be for everyone, as the poetry is thick and requires several readings on occasion because story-line plays a fairly important part in Galvin’s sparse words. But for those who don’t mind a historical taint to their poetry, Ocean Effects is well worth the extra effort. B