mike james

Left Over Distances by Mike James

leftover
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By Lynette G. Esposito
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Left Over Distances by Mike James published by Luchador Press is an interesting mix of long and short poems divided into five sections covering eighty- two pages.  In the mix are poems about dreams, locations and loneliness.
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For example, on page twenty-six, James addresses time and space in his one-stanza poem Every Summer was Always the Same.
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          He’d eat butter sandwiches three times a day.
          On Sunday, he’d check his blood pressure with a garden hose.
          A Zen witch taught him that trick for a pack of smokes.
          Afterwards, he’d turn the garden hose into a Sunday lasso.
          He would climb to the moon when he could find it.
          He liked it there.
         He liked the moon quiet.
         It was up beyond dark clouds and among white stars.
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While James has not identified the he in the poem, he has focused on a special day of the week in the summer and what repeatedly happened on that day.  It is almost dream like in the memory of that day as the action went from observable activities to an imaginary trip to the safety of the moon where inactivity gave rest.  It is a skillful poem of images that both relate to summer experience and the distance one gains when one can see someone mentally disappear into another zone.
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He also accomplishes this sense of the present and the ethereal in his poem The Refugees on page forty-three.
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            Each carries two suitcases.
           One for belongings.
           One for ghosts.
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In this tiny poem, James has drawn a picture of people fleeing what they had but also carrying the memories of the past with them. The poem is lean, controlled and effective. Here he sets an unknown place where the refugees have gone with their surreal packing of spirits that can both haunt and comfort, and at the same time, suggest the loneliness of the journey.
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The poems throughout the five sections vary in form and length and from one stanza to many. James, however, seems to favor the one stanza free verse form.  On page sixty-five his poem,  Acceptance Jubilee  is a good example of this.
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            Once, I mistook my scars for stars and made my own
            little universe. I was a big boy with my own place. That
            night was dark. The moon nothing other than far away.
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Ths self-reflection poem uses images to detail the process of accepting one’s self with all the baggage that comes with it.  He turns his scars into something beautiful that helps with this acceptance.  The title guides the reader to the idea it is a Jubilee when it happens.  This is a skillful poem with empirical images and a clear message.
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This tome is not a quick read. The poems are the kind you come back to for a second look and maybe a third read.   I liked the variety of subjects and the clarity of poetic message.
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You can find the book here: Leftover Distances
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Lynette G. Esposito has been an Adjunct Professor at Rowan University,  Burlington County and Camden County Colleges. She has taught creative writing and conducted workshops in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Esposito holds a BA in English from the University of Illinois and an MA in Creative Writing and English Literature from Rutgers University.
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