The Owl's Ears is the second short book in the first volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Benson begins the poem "It Was Too Late" with the simultaneously nutty and philosophical line: "I never saw myself coming." From here, this poem takes on some of the beautiful sorrow of a poet like Larry Levis, as "local dogs / lay down with the sound of my name." Later:
I did not see myself in others,
the boozy young army reservists
or the old women of silken bones.
I could not remember dreams.
Yet it is precisely through a dreamlike world that Benson guides us in this collection. He introduces us to strange characters like "The Silent Comedians" and "The Opener of Doors." In his realm, Magritte-like surrealism, full of portals and hats, can be married to more deeply philosophical concerns (one poem is entitled "Socrates"). Led on by a voice as confident as our own mind, we the dreamers never question events like those that begin the poem "After the War":
Someone made a hat and tossed it in the air,
a new motto waved a flag, and the shadows
spoke freely without us. It was a dictum
could make a heart shine like a small star
and a mouth feel the song in it.
Then someone threw a parade and marched
the bones home, regiment by regiment.
Other poems are more securely tethered to the world they transcend, as in the second-person address "To the Nursing Home Escapee Karl G."--which instructs, "you should wander the streets now like your own lost lover," and recall:
[...] the light of this streetlamp
after the last of you has left you here--
seated tonight, by the last window of the last bus
after the silence departs, and you have wandered off--
and the many white winged moths that shone below.
Dense with imagery, though fleet of foot, these poems render a delicious turn of mind, at once whimsical and longing--pathos laced with a dash of prank. For those willing to take the journey, Boyd W. Benson's poetry may well be the best thing since lucid dreaming.
The Owl's Ears is available in New Poets | Short Books Volume I from Lost Horse Press. Read more reviews from the Lost Horse Press New Poets series.