Kelvin D. Filer’s collection borrows its name from a Latin legal phrase, res ipsa loquitur, meaning: “the thing speaks for itself.” It’s noteworthy that he describes the book (in the subtitle) as a poetic diary, rather than poetry, a current trend that can be confusing: they’re not supposed to be actual poems, but poetic? Here, the entries are more interesting as memoir rather than poetry.
Filer begins in high school and moves chronologically from there to his life as a judge in Los Angeles. He includes photographs and an introduction by his brother, Duane.
He is an intelligent, conscientious and compelling writer, commenting on social justice, values, culture, ethics, character, and responsibility. He’s not bashful about discussing painful issues such as divorce, the loss of his grandmother, his beloved dog. Many of the poems amount to homilies; others are recollections; some are tributes to those special in his life.
Filer is obviously coming from a sincere and genuine place, but his poetry lacks the subtler devices of the art, such as metaphor, imagery, sensory description, while cleaving to rhyme and manipulation of line breaks without a keen sense of their function. This simplistic approach lacks the intensity or resonance to grab readers’ imaginations. It doesn’t aim for depth or encourage reader participation. In “Kree,” a poem about his daughter, he writes, “You can sing, dance, write or play ball, /Smart, funny, confident, and now tall.” How much more interesting this would be if Filer could give us the particulars, such as: “dance like a gypsy moth on a begonia,” or “split the horsehide from a spanking-new Spalding..”
The author has so much warmth and authenticity that readers will find ways to appreciate his collection. Still, whether you’re crafting memoirs, essays, plays or poetry, you need lyricism to convey the feel of an epiphany, a moment, an event. In that sense, Filer is just not aiming high enough.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.