Like the many passing encounters with enigmatic strangers, inscrutable lovers, articulate bums, or targets of lust described within its pages, Philip Gaber’s Between Eden and the Open Road is a collection of poems and brief prose pieces that snare the interest and provoke thought. The book’s trajectory invites understanding of a single mind (seemingly the author’s) grappling with life’s missed opportunities and major disappointments, the appeal of aimlessness, and – in the words of one poem’s title – finding “some equilibrium between writing and living.”
The poem ‘serious freedom’ is among the more accomplished work here. Gaber writes: “…I was a reputable vagrant/with a quarter of a chip still left / on my shoulder, / goodly in need of a crucial moment and black coffee.” Vagrancy is also the subject of the prose piece “in the now of the now,” which, like several other entries here, records a slice of a desultory life haunted by longing for meaning.
Memorable lines elsewhere include “He was the Monday morning of human beings/The kind of guy who would confront you in a public restroom if you didn’t wash your hands,” from the poem “Melancholy Jew,” and “We didn’t possess a lot of insight/just a lot of adolescent myopia,” from “The Energy of Nothing.”
Between Eden and the Open Road is clearly the work of a man with a poetic outlook and impulse. But if poetry demands, as Alexander Pope famously noted, both sound and sense, the former is elusive here. In order to accomplish a distinctive sound to his work, Gaber need not rhyme his words or be “musical.” But he does need to employ the poets’ tools (alliteration, consonance and so on) that make the sound of his work as important as its content.
Thus, while his poems will satisfy those who enjoy free verse that delivers memorable observations, sophisticated readers looking for a memorable poetic voice may feel that he has room to grow.
Also available as an ebook.