I have enjoyed poet Stephen Kopel's previous books of poetry, and find this one full of new linguistic acrobatics. For those discovering his poems for the first time, I suggest that to expect "meaning" or "depth" from a poem by Kopel is a little bit like expecting meaning from an Olympic gymnastic routine.
It is what it is: a tremendously artful defiance of gravity.
"Picnic Poetry" is organized into "Starters," "Sides," and "Extra Helpings."
Some poems have rhythm and rhyme, and I can easily picture children skipping rope to such daffy delights as in his poem, “National Pastime" :
still as a stick
bent on preying,
wet as slicky spit,
a skinny sinner,
preaches a hungry shtick"
I like the way he constructs his images, line breaks and wordplay. I find relief in his work; a welcome airy outing.
Kopel's whimsy is, yes, light in texture, but challenging in the breadth of his referencing a wider world of literature, history, culture and English peculiarities -all seems neatly packed, like a cubist memory box, that in its totality makes for some entertainingly original images.
Sometimes straightforward nonsense is, in the best sense, exactly the complimentary warp to the world's woof; and though the images and jokes may be playful, they are also sometimes wise and even at times touching on truth, weirdly familiar. Honestly, I read Kopel because he is as fun for me as he is engaging, as in “The Center for Derelict Satellites” :
“If the Milky Whey becomes genetically altered,
will the Kurds discard cheese altogether?
Meteors never shower if they think the universe is watching.
Does a comet scour and cleanse as it plunges, then, vanishes?
With nothing left to notch,
Van Allen Belts tighten buckles
Ms Cosmic Raze is always seaching for cosmetics to mask hot flashes
Hubble huddles with black holes
hoping for clarity
demanding time in the sun."
(reviewed 21 days after purchase)