Three books of poetry by Charles Ghigna

Review by Jennifer Pearson

Speaking in Tongues: New and Selected Poems 1974-1994
Copyright 1994
Checked out 0 times in 16 years

Considering this is a book of poetry by an Alabamian with poems titled “Pitching Horseshoes” and “Keeping a Gun in the House,” I’m surprised it has not circulated. The first part of this book is very much from a male perspective with football huddles, hunting, fishing, athletic coaches, and games of toughness gone wrong. Maybe in the rural South, rough and ready men don’t visit the poetry section much?

This book would likely appeal to teenagers or young men if they were to pick it up. I believe it should stay on the shelves because it is by an Alabamian, is accessible, and does provide so many poems that address male experience. However, it might find more appreciation in a high school library where a teacher or librarian could stick it under the nose of a teenage boy occasionally.

This book also offers a teacher examples of poetic projects. Ghigna does takes on other poets’ works (my favorite being “Keeping Things Holy,” an alteration of Mark Strand’s “Keeping Things Whole”). He uses forms to pay tribute to artists and writers, such as “Couplets for Picasso” and “Tercets for Thomas.” These would be nice jumping off points for a teacher discussing poetry.

Plastic Soup: Dream Poems
Copyright 1999
Checked out 1 time in 11 years
Last checked out 5 years ago

This book is quite different from Speaking in Tongues. The subject matter is more mature. While romantic relationships are relegated almost entirely to a single section in the earlier book, in Plastic Soup they are a more common subject and predominate in section III.

Again, this book belongs on the shelves because Ghigna is an Alabama poet and because his work is accessible. If he remains unread twenty years from now, then future generations can decide whether to let him go, but it’s too early yet to write him off. (There was another copy of Plastic Soup on the shelves which I didn’t check for circulation, so the situation may not be as dismal as it appears.)

Haiku: Travelers of Eternity
Copyright 2001
Checked out 1 time in 11 years
Last checked out 5 years ago

In this lovely gift book, Ghigna writes 12 haiku, one for each month. Each poem is accompanied by a sumi-e painting, a form of Japanese painting which is described in the beginning of the book. Though Ghigna honors some of the conventions of haiku, the poems in this volume are not what would be considered high-art English language haiku. They’re still enjoyable, but haiku connoisseurs should not expect to be wowed.

There’s nothing wrong with keeping this book on the shelf. My only objection to it is that it was purchased for $17.95 and contains only 12 poems. The money would have been better spent on a standard book of poetry such as the ones above (Plastic Soup provides 44 poems for $14.95).

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About jppoetryreader

Poetry reviewer and poetry consultant for libraries
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