In this collection of poetry, David Sumich blends words and images to explore people’s complexities, particularly when it comes to love and relationships.
In his introduction, Sumich explains that every poem is written with three stanzas of four lines each. “This simple constraint led me to select my words with the utmost care, paying a great deal of attention to their impact and imagery.” This is a worthy goal, sometimes skillfully achieved here, but other times less so.
One skilled piece is “Out to Lunch,” in which the speaker uses sign imagery to describe behaviors and attitudes that make love difficult for a person: “ ‘Unavailable’ a sign reads, hung outside your heart./ It gives stop to those who might think to start.” The subject of the poem also displays signs of “Unattainable” and “Unemotional”—to devastating effect: “You keep these signs clean for the world to see/ A constant reminder of who you can’t be.”
The rhyming structure in “Out to Lunch” works well, enhanced by words that carry solid meaning. Unfortunately, often Sumich seems to use words simply for the sake of rhyming, creating poems that appear more nonsensical than meaningful. For example, in the first poem,
“ ‘D’ Construction,” the speaker notes that he is a “wrecking ball”: “ ‘Heavy Metal’, I have often been called./ For the brutal precision in which I have balled./ My motor keeps running, it never gets stalled./ Those that get wrecked are plenty enthralled.” Readers are likely to be thrown by the odd use of “balled,” and while the idea that those who are wrecked are “enthralled” could have been interesting, it’s left unexplored.
The art is colorful and creative; in many cases, it makes sense after reading the poem, but sometimes it helps to illuminate the piece.
Overall, The Picture Show has an easy, unpretentious style and delivers messages that can be enlightening. Careful pruning to eliminate the less successful poems would enhance this offering.
Also available as an ebook.