Northern Poetry Review: Archived

Review: Bones

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Bones, by Mike Freeman

Reviewed by Susan Helwig


Mike Freeman’s latest poetry collection, Bones, lives up to the advertising of the title, that is, bare bones and clean to the bone. In fact, the opening poem, Gravity Zero, benefits from the added luft of love:

She rose up into the air and the jilted earth let out a sigh.

She rose up and the almond scent of her skin filled the breeze, then faded like a song.

She rose up past telephone poles and rooftops of houses where the earth-bound hid.

She rose up sleeker than the sparrows that swirled around her like a jubilant cyclone

She rose up, confounding Air Traffic Control with her unidentified, tiny red blip.

She rose up and scrunched her toes as though the sky beneath were a fresh-mown lawn.

She rose up and with a swish of her fingers parted storm clouds like a plastic bead curtain.

She rose up, shooting through the ozone with a tangerine shower of sparks. She rose up, past satellites and every cell phone down on earth rang out at once.

She rose up but remembered to politely wave goodbye…

The tide went out for half the world when she gently bumped her head against the moon.

Stars got caught in her weightless, dirty-blonde hair.

The “dirty-blond” adjective in the last line brings the reader crashing back down to earth, but Freeman soars up again, however, with some amazing, playful work. It’s hard to believe the energy found in Therefore nevertheless moreover is produced without a single noun or verb:

but what is more in addition besides

still furthermore likewise & more to the point

yet equally however on the other hand

& in view of that accordingly

Likewise My threadbare black armband makes do with only the verb “to be”:

is is

& always will be is

My quibble about the “armband” poem is the title — or is the poet just being obtuse?

Freeman is really in flight with excerpt from The Genealogy:

Cocker Spaniel begat Infamy.


Infamy begat Toast.


Toast begat Postal Worker.

Postal Worker begat Grain of Sand.

Now it’s just nouns and the verb “beget” that he’s working with, but what nouns they turn out to be, cleverly coupled (pardon the pun) with the Biblical “begat.” I can live without the periods at the end of every line, but maybe that’s just Freeman staying in Biblical format.

Hard to believe that a bright little piece like Home in my pocket — “There is a little here / in every there” comes from the same poet who flips the “home” coin and gives us a rather leaden “Losing home.”

The concrete poems — for example, Spadina Food Market and TXT MSGS 2 MRCL DCHMP — are high-octane additions to this collection. Impossible to quote here, but do have a look. They’re a feast for the eyes.

Freeman’s prose pieces do not seem to fit in with the general brilliance of this collection. I don’t know how Wish Fulfillment, The Note and The Sun is Dead were included in this book. You could say I’ve got a real bone to pick when it comes to prose poems that read like paragraphs.

By and large, however, this book tickled my fancy (and my funnybone).


Author: Alex Boyd

Alex Boyd is the author of two books of poems: Making Bones Walk and The Least Important Man. He also writes essays, reviews and fiction.

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