Book Review — The Occasionist

The Occasionist by Curt Anderson

The Occasionist by Curt Anderson is his first published collection of poetry. Anderson’s poems have appeared in Poetry, Poetry East, Bitter Oleander, Exquisite Corpse, Good Times, Rag Mag, Transfer, Barrow Street, and The Porter Gulch Review. The Poem “Platonic Love” was anthologized in The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002: Ninety Years of America’s Most Distinguished Verse (2003).

“Platonic Love”, mentioned above, may be the anchor of this collection, but many of the poems carry their own weight. However, it is hard to miss “Platonic Love”. It’s a story of a successful date punctuated with philosopher’s names — Hegel, Aristotle, Locke, and Kant. As the evening winds down:

She unhooks her Buber and I pull off my Spinoza.
I run my finger along her Heraclitus as she fondles my Bacon.
She stops to ask me if I brought any Kierkegaard. I nod.

It would be juvenile or bad romance book writing, but adding philosophers, from the ancient to the present, gives it a whole new level. I had to look up a few of the philosophers which added to my experience.

The first poem that grabbed me was “The Ice Plant.” It had a particular feeling; Like listening to The Doors’ L.A. Woman, with the Southern California breeze off the ocean, while motorcycling down El Camino Real. It was more than a description. It was an experience. It took me back to the early 80s and some of the interesting street/beach people I met. It delivers that faded glory and the faded dream that many hopeful people held when arriving in Southern California. It was the poem that made this collection for me. Serious and full of imagery.

“Boredom” returns to the lighter side a poem of a baby being left in a library book drop next to a biography of Millard Fillmore — fitting title. “Self Portrait with a Rake” took me back to my young days of having to weed the garden before I could go out and play. I hated that garden, but the first thing I did when I bought a house was plant a garden. In “Goldfish” the world of a goldfish in a four-gallon tank makes the reader think how trapped and limited our own lives are.

The Occasionist offers a variety of themes and moods. The ability to capture a shared moment or feeling runs through this collection. From knowing just how deep to hide the humor and how mature or silly to make it. It carries, for me, those lost years in Southern California — The freedom, the escapade, the fun. This is a collection that hits home for me.

Hip Pocket Press gives interested readers three poems to lure the reader in: http://hippocketpress.org/the-occasio…

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1 Comment

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One response to “Book Review — The Occasionist

  1. tgottschling

    Wonderful blog to think more about. And, eloquently written. After reading your thoughts re the poem “Goldfish” I thought of David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008), “This is Water.”
    http://www.openculture.com/2013/05/david_foster_wallaces_2005_commencement_speech_this_is_water_visualized_in_new_short_film.html

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