Sunday, January 5, 2014

O, What a Luxury - to read light verse

One of my Christmas gifts this year was O, What a Luxury: Verses Lyrical, Vulgar, Pathetic & Profound by Garrison Keillor.

My first reaction when I removed the gift paper was a polite smile. I am not a big fan of Keillor, and I had read one of his previous poetry books, a collection of sonnets I simply did not like.

But hey, it was a gift, I do like light verse, and Keillor can be droll.

The poems address many of the subjects and themes Keillor is famous for on his show (A Prairie Home Companion) and in previous humor books and essays: Minnesota, Lutherans, nostalgia, music, liberal politics, aging, love and sex. Oh, and butts.

Some of the poems are amusing. Others often contain amusing stanzas or lines. But some of them seem incomplete, unpolished, or start off fine but end as if he was rushed or on a deadline. Indeed, the jacket notes that many of the poems were written for the show, and one has to wonder if he "finished" some just before going on air.

So what we have is a mixed bag. Some good poems. Some that need work.

To be honest, if this book was not written by a "famous guy," I don't know if it would have been published. Some of the individual poems might have found a market, but not the entire collection. I think he's a better writer of prose, or as an on air/on stage raconteur.

Bottom line: A mixed reaction. If you are Keillor fan, or a fan of his show, check the book out of the library. If you are not a Keillor fan, but enjoy some good light verse, then seek out a collection of Nash or Parker or Silverstein, or perhaps an anthology that includes a couple of Keillor's better poems mixed in with good poems from other writers.

Pax et bonum

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