By Lynette G. Esposito
Ornaments, by David Daniel, is a great read for lovers of poetry. Divided into four parts, the sixty-four page volume of poetry shows insights into conversations with the self and how ones observations affect not only the narrator, but also the space around him and his readers.
Daniel uses common language and images to portray how everyday situations become representative of life’s struggles. For example, Daniels in his poem The Naturalist says:
In nature, what is beautiful is poisonous,
And if it is beautiful and easy to catch, it is likely deadly:
This fact supported by naturalists worldwide.
He then relates this to: prophets are sometimes beautiful and who are often blind and predict deadly futures. He suggests no one is hurt by poetry. He juxtaposes the concepts of the natural and unnatural with the effects they produce. The narrator in this poem speaks of beheading poetry and drinking the poison of the moon. He catches a snake which bites him before it pours itself into its hole. The reader is left at the port of entry where language encounters the surprise of multi snake bites and escapes.
In his poem The Mouse’s Nest, the narrator complains Madness, you know, creeps in– or you stumble on it. The narrator’s definition of madness and his technique of using direct address to the reader set an unnerving scene. The narrator discovers a mouse’s nest in an old trunk by the sea and the logical mind can see reality in an unreality:
Just who’s found the nest and when? “The mirror of nature, you say,
Just look at yourself.” And I do. A storm had washed in
A wooden chest made to store what you need by the sea.
The image of the self looking into the sea chest and back at itself over the discovery of a nest with a dead mouse and her babies clinging to her demonstrates how cruel nature can be in preserving evidence of once living creatures. It feels like madness in the preservation of the dead creature entombed in a place it considered safe.
The soft cover book released by the University of Pittsburgh Press, offers a clear vision into what poetry is and what it is supposed to be. This book is well worth reading more than once.
Daniel is the author of Seven-Star Bird which won the Levis Reading Prize given by Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the editor of Ploughshares and founded WAMAFEST (The Words and Music Festival) which brings together many celebrated artists such as Bruce Springsteen with Robert Pinsky and Roseanne Cash with C.D. Wright. Daniel is a member of the Bennington Writers Seminars. He teaches at Farleigh Dickinson University. He is a native of Danville, Kentucky and currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The book is available from University of Pittsburg Press and in e-book format.
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. Her articles have appeared in the national publication, Teaching for Success; regionally in South Jersey Magazine, SJ Magazine. Delaware Valley Magazine, and her essays have appeared in Reader’s Digest and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Her poetry has appeared in US1, SRN Review, The Fox Chase Review and other literary magazines. She has critiqued poetry for local and regional writer’s conferences and served as a panelist and speaker at local and national writer’s conferences. She lives with her husband, Attilio, in Mount Laurel, NJ.