The pervading impetus that drives and supports each poem in Gary Bateman’s collection Reflections in the Mirror is the author’s love for poetry.
“Poetry is the/ one literary undertaking that I like to do the most,” the author confides in “Don’t Talk About It—Write About It.” “My love of poetry is for all eternity,” he declares in another piece.
As a poetry lover, the author has read widely, and the influences of Poe and Longfellow are seen in Bateman’s more macabre pieces like “The Nocturnal Delight of Mephistopheles” (Poe) and in his echoing lines like “footprints in the sands of time” (Longfellow.) His poems about Keats, Shelley, Byron, Goethe and Heine reflect a familiarity that comes from frequent reading.
Bateman’s scope is impressive, as is his book’s heft (at more than 600 pages). Everything from romantic verses, to political commentaries, to descriptions of fairies and leprechauns fall within his purview. His greatest ability lies in seeing the potential for an image or point of view. The image of Donald Trump as a pied piper for New York (from “The Pied Piper from New York City”) is inspired, and Fred Astaire (from “Where Are You Fred Astaire?”) with his “impeccable charm” and “sublime dancing” holds delightful possibilities.
The problem with the Astaire poem and others, though, is that Bateman too often eschews poetic language for prosaic exposition. In the Astaire poem, he writes: “Although he’s gone now, his contributions serve as a prologue for/ New generations to come and to seize opportunities for greatness.” The aforementioned “Pied Piper” poem, an anti-Trump work, offers prose-like text for seven pages.
Bateman’s poetry also suffers from the frequent use of abstracts (e.g., “Water falls down over a fountain of divine beauty….”) and of antiquated language (“bespeaks,” “thou,” “thee,” etc.).
The poems in these pages have potential and might be enjoyed by those who enjoy the sheer variety. However, they require revision to appeal to dedicated poetry readers.
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