Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reed Farrel Coleman - the "hard-boiled poet"


Last year, Linda Brown from The Mystery Bookstore in L.A. introduced me to my first experience with the work of award-winning author Reed Farrel Coleman. I read his first Moe Prager novel, WALKING THE PERFECT SQUARE at Linda's recommendation. About the same time I was pestering him to participate in the six-word memoir project. In our conversations about the memoirs, he told me that he had started out in writing with poetry. And boy did that ever make sense. Reed's prose flows with the beauty of poetic language. Imagine that! Beautiful language in crime fiction. For those who think that's an oxymoron, all you have to do is pick up anything Reed's written. You can also see my comments about that here in my review of WALKING THE PERFECT SQUARE or here in my review of Reed's collaborative work TOWER, which he wrote with Ken Bruen. This is far from an original thought. Many, many folks wiser and more well-read than I have made similar comments about Reed's poetic style. At the core of who he is, Reed Farrel Coleman is a poet.

I invite you to take a look at Reed's own comments about his poetry and while you're there, mosey around the site a bit. Get to know this writer. It is well worth your time, I promise. Reed states that he loves to play with words. His play turns into beautiful art. And this is precisely why I want to highlight him today.

When I asked Reed for some resources of his poetry, in addition to THE LINEUP, he did me one better. He shared some of his poems with me and gave me permission to share them with you. So it is an honor for me to share with you the work of one of my favorite writers, my favorite poets, my favorite artists: Reed Farrel Coleman.

The first poem I have to share with you is from his "Trilogy of Childhood." It was originally published in the LONG ISLAND QUARTERLY in 1996 and it's called "Sonnet of a City Once Known." Those of you who insist that a poem must rhyme will enjoy this one. For me it was the sense of place and atmosphere that Reed creates. And the tone of the poem has a echoing, haunting feeling. And I think I connected with it because of what's happening in my own neck of the woods. I hope you enjoy, "Sonnet of a City Once Known."
Sonnet of a City Once Known

Have you not seen the city I once knew
buried beneath years of silent defect,
impatient rust and angry shades of blue?
History’s hidden beneath its neglect.

The endless sewer to sewer stickball games,
crumbling cement, steps worn smooth as slate,
summer Tuesdays, boardwalk firework flames,
my father coming home (always too late).

Soft blacktop leaps to meet a kid’s sneaker
rounding first, but dreaming of home at last.
Old tar just hardens, the streets grow
bleaker and bright futures are leveled by the past.

On fall days as shedding trees turn to stone,
my shadows visit this city once known.
—Reed F. Coleman
The other poem that I have to share with you is called "New Orleans" which is part of his "Trilogy for My Father." "New Orleans" was previously published in CHIRON REVIEW in 1989, in CINCINNATI POET'S COLLECTIVE in 1996 and POETRY OF MURDER in 2005. This one veers more from poetic conventions and we see Reed's love of word play.
New Orleans

And Betty
watches me
with winter eyes
blue as
snowfall
and maybe rain.
Her snowfall says
she knows me
like
some weather-tired
gypsy
reading my falling father’s
tea leaves
in this basement
in New Orleans
not in Spain.

And I said
“Hello”
to Jesus
but I knew
he could not hear answer.
I read
where
his ambition was to be
a soft-shoe dancer
not some wounded
wooden jet plane
married to the runway
by unrelenting failure
and a
cane.

And I kissed
the hands of
Jesus.
Again
there was no
answer.
I did not need one,
really!
I noticed I
was crying
seeing through his
mangled fingers
like Betty
sees
through winter
and maybe rain.
—Reed F. Coleman
Effective poetry has a way of grabbing ahold of your soul. That's the best way I can describe the feeling I get inside. Reed's poems do just that for me. They fill my head with thoughts that I jumble around, literally, for days. These are also thoughts that will be trigged by people and events later. You know those thoughts that drive you to say, "that makes me think of..." His words become a part of my person and I feel richer for it.

I hope that you've enjoyed these poems. My most heartfelt thanks to Reed for sharing them with us. I am truly honored. You can learn more about all aspects of Reed's writing at his website: http://www.reedcoleman.com/


For more on the National Poetry Month blog tour, check out Savvy Verse and Wit.

8 comments:

Serena April 27, 2010 at 7:01 AM  

Wonderful! I really enjoyed Coleman's poetry. Thanks for highlighting him and for participating in National Poetry Month.

Remember to link up with Mr Linky and to send your link to Susan at winabook!

Kaye Barley April 27, 2010 at 10:12 AM  

oh my.

Jen - thank you.

Reed Farrel Coleman - honey, you break my heart. I love these.

Diane April 27, 2010 at 10:17 AM  

I love Coleman's books but somehow never thought to look for him on the web. Thanks for a heads-up on him and his poetry.

Valerie April 27, 2010 at 9:36 PM  

I can see why Coleman is one of your favorite poets and writers! I went over to his website, was impressed and I'm sure will be back there again.

Thank you for introducing him to those of us who haven't "met" him yet!

darbyscloset April 28, 2010 at 12:07 AM  

How did Darby die?
Not by suicide.
Compiled by Jen,
Her TBR pile ranked higher than her kin.
Darby's kin toppled her pile,
And left her buried for awhile!

Thanks Jen for another author intro! ;-*
Darby
darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

kathy d. April 28, 2010 at 2:16 AM  

Where should one start with Coleman's books? I shy away from sad themes or heavy-duty violence.

Any suggestions?

Jen Forbus April 28, 2010 at 5:49 AM  

Oh you all are making me smile this morning! Thanks so much for stopping by to see the work of Reed F. Coleman.

Kathy, I would recommend starting with WALKING THE PERFECT SQUARE, which thanks to Busted Flush Press, is available now. That's the beginning of Reed's Moe Prager series. While I loved TOWER if you're not a fan of violence, that one may not be your cup of tea. That one deals with more violent themes.

Valerie, so glad you checked out Reed's website. Be sure to let me know if you read some of his work and what you think! Always love to hear what folks think.

Darby, as always, love ya girl! Enjoy Reed!

Susan Helene Gottfried April 29, 2010 at 1:06 PM  

Neat stuff! Thanks for the link, Jen. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

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