Review of Beyond the Masks
Reviewed by Freada Dillon
In his new collection of poems, Beyond the Masks, Harvey Stanbrough does some amazing things. He takes us on a journey from the microscopic through the macrocosmic by way of evolution, using mesmerizing meter to couch his cynicism of man’s role in the scheme of things.
A Vietnam War era Marine, Stanbrough has the expertise and experience to make war real. He hits his stride with the grim and yet somehow lovely "On Viewing a Former Human in Razorwire."
now he silences the wire, muffles
the music made by wind and rain playing
curiously among the slicing steel.
You will feel intense concentration, dead calm and jagged panic, all combined in "Sniper."
and breathe, relax and breathe, relax and hold,
the finger squeezes firmly — snap! the harbinger
of god, spin-howling through the grass to split
the cross, the final cross this one will bear.
But under that old crust is a cowboy in love. Stanbrough is smitten with the Sonoran Desert. Once he’s had his fill of war, his poetry takes wing.
Excerpt from "A Prayer"
Give me the strength to live a silent life,
a heartbeat muted so it goes unnoticed,
and the stealth to sidestep liars, friends,
and others who would plan my every move;
a long trail out and a short trail back
to the Sonoran, to the house of stone
where my soul resides.
Stanbrough’s gentle tribute, "Touched with Fire," soars:
We knew he was touched with fire, that one
who fingered constant motion, each slim hand
directing its own band, or sensing air
of heat or cold, or else just wandering,
following his legs’ disjointed jaunt,
"In a California Sanitarium" takes you to a place you don’t want to go, but can’t pull away from, to save your own sanity.
The title poem, "Beyond the Masks," is a masterwork,
Before we lost the gods or sight of them
and let them fade away beyond the masks
that separate their world (the world) and us,
There are so many more lines I want to quote. But then, each poem deserves to be read in its entirety in the order placed within this collection.
In the final analysis, I believe Stanbrough is an old soldier in search of redemption, not realizing he’s a cowboy who’s already found it, writ large, in meter that will sweep you away.
Freada Dillon, Poetry Editor, Beginnings Publishing
© Harvey Stanbrough, June 2005
All rights reserved
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