Sunday, December 5, 2010



King of the Jungle by Zvi A. Sesling
(Ibbetson Street Press, Somerville, MA, 2010)

These are unornamented poems totally confident in the effectiveness of its plain-speaking. In that sense (among others), Sam Cornish is correct in his Introduction to call Zvi A. Sesling’s King of the Jungle a stand out relative to many first books of poetry. When I think of first books, maturity isn’t the first concept that arises—it does here and perhaps (perhaps?) it’s partly because Sesling took his time (he wrote for decades!) before releasing his inaugural poetry collection.

Maturity manifests itself partly in control. Here’s the poem “Pyramid” in its entirety:

There among flat sands
the color of a cat
the grey pyramid rises
pointing to heaven
a single finger speaking
to a god forgotten
built by slaves forgotten
their names buried
with them forever
while the pharaoh
nameless for three thousand
years is found and
revered, his fame not
in the pyramid that rises
but supported by the
crushed Hebrew bones
beneath him

Maturity, of course, usually comes with experience—I sense-feel that the following poem, “Café Terrace” had to be lived first versus something that sprung from imagination:
Café Terrace

If I could step into Van Gogh’s
painting of Café Terrace with its
yellow lighting and lover strolling
on cobblestone streets, the buildings
looming in the dark and the people
sitting at the cafe’s tables with their
coffees, I should select for my table,
the one where the woman sits alone
trying to see her future in the swirl
of coffee and milk, in the grains of
sugar slowly sinking into the brown
murk. I would sit down without asking
her permission, say hello in English
with the hope she knew enough o
answer and I would order the same
drink she was having. I would tell
her of the beautiful sky, blue like the
collar around a king’s cape and the
stars like popped corn. I would tell
her how nice it would be to stroll the
cobblestone streets until we were too
tired to continue and she could invite
me upstairs to her third floor flat where,
panting from exhaustion, I would fall
asleep waiting for the kettle’s anxious
call. In the Café Terrace the woman has
no face, as so many other women I
have known.

By the way, sometimes writing a poem or typing a poem allows for its own revelation(s). In typing Sesling’s poem for inclusion in this review, I got a fuller sense of the admirably energetic pace of the poem. This energy which exists in many of the book's other poems, belying surface simplicity.

Having said that, these poems are straight-forward storytelling verses so there’s not much need for me to discuss anything but the stories. Stories are often most satisfying when they contain deep layers. In this sense, the following poem “Crossing The Yellow Brick Road” may be my favorite in the book. The poem relies on language-as-communication but also manages to convey the troubling depths to which it refers. Let it speak for itself here
Crossing The Yellow Brick Road

There never was a yellow brick road
just a painted floor on a movie set

She (you know who) never landed in Oz
never left the farm in Kansas so there was never

An adventure, just a mushroom—or corn mash
induced dream

After all, lions and scarecrows and tin men do not
talk, that is reserved for two-legged wolves or the

Ones that want Red Riding Hood, men not
animals, dried grass or tin cans

No sir it is wolves that chase little girls, big bad
wwo legged ones to watch out for and you know what,

It is about seducing a thirteen year-old (or younger)

They are all in disguise, all pretending to help
all ready to pounce, hey a little corn mash helps

Those farm workers—three men—out there miles
from anywhere with pigs and cows and Auntie Em,

Face it, they want their fun and she is available so
what the hell, some stories end that way

and speak on behalf of the collection overall for being a book that shows it was important to be published. And for this reader, this debut was worth the wait—if only as also an editor of a poetry journal (Muddy River Poetry Review), Sesling must have read many, diverse poems for many years. That he had the confidence to know himself—the kind of poems best to be written by him—is a sense unique and welcome in first poetry collections.


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects, but she is pleased to point you elsewhere to reviews of her books. Her newest book THE THORN ROSARY: Selected Prose Poems & New (1998-2010) is reviewed by Amazon top-notch reviewer Grady Harp over HERE, William Allegrezza over at p-ramblings HERE and by Leny M. Strobel at Moria Poetry HERE. Mr. Harp also reviews her NOTA BENE EISWEIN over HERE. If the former book gets you curious, please note that its publisher Marsh Hawk Press is supporting a fundraiser for Haiti relief by giving a free copy if you order at least $15 worth of booklets through the Hay(na)ku for Haiti fundraiser; as THE THORN ROSARY is priced retail at $19.95, this is one of the best bargains in the poetry world, even as it helps out with a Haiti fundraiser.

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