The HyperTexts

Outlaw's Retreat
by Tom Merrill
ISBN 0-9738392-7-9
80 pages at 21.95 US, 26.95 CAN
Multicultural Books
307 Birchwood Court
6311 Gilbert Rd.
Richmond, BC, V7C3V7
Book Review by Laurel Johnson
Tom Merrill's poetry has been featured far and wide in journals and e-zines. He believes lyric poetry is a refuge for the hidden heart and disperses that philosophy through various styles, including rhymes and free verse. To quote the back cover, his poetry is rhythmic, enchanting, and mystical. It is all that and more. Coleridge was always one of my favorite poets, and Merrill's work has that same élan. For example, I quote this excerpt from "I Had of Love:"

       And so, I made my cure of hearts
       A cold night wind instead;
       And all the sadly brimming stars
       Shone down on our chill bed.

The beauty and grace of a well-constructed quatrain does not happen by accident. Consider "In the Stillness of Many" for example, which I quote in its entirety:

       Many nights when undrawn to the living,
        I have gone to the graveyard instead,
       And sought out my truth among ashes,
        And for beauty, lain down with the dead.

       In the stillness of many a midnight,
        I have warmed to their wakening sound,
       The impassioned and scorned and unliving
        Who speak to my heart from the ground.

"Beyond the Brute Moon" is a rich broth of words and sounds, a story shown in free verse.  I chose my favorite excerpt to share here:

       And all your lifeless luster
       Holds no wonder;
       You glow wakeless whether
       Weaving through the silvern satin clouds
       Or on the fattest harvest shining
       Or slouched and falcate
       In the black-walled night,
       And deaf to hearts
       Pressed like trapped creatures crying.

Poetry does not have to be complicated or convoluted to make a powerful point. "Bird Watching" is simple and brief:

       As, gimlet-eyed,
       the hawk perceives its prey,
       so men peer down on men from peaceful skies,
       and in a mechanical
       swooping blur of grey,
       dispatch their work by sudden, swift

I've heard it said that poetry is a hard sell these days. Merrill's message to poetry lovers who mourned the passing of classical poetry is, "Take heart.  Keep reading. " Whether you enjoy free verse that delivers an understandable message or rhymes carefully crafted, Tom Merrill's poetry is recommended.

Reviewed by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review — October 29, 2005 

The HyperTexts