Few things are as endlessly entertaining as depictions of Philadelphia in pop culture, which is why we're launching The 19102 Review, a new column devoted to Philly books.
He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs
Poetry, 2013, Hanging Loose Press, 88 pp.
I’m no poetry expert, and, if poetry experts exist the way I imagine them, they can all go take the road less traveled into a volcano. But I know what I like, and right now I’m deeply digging He Looked Beyond My Faults and Saw My Needs (released April 15) by veteran Philly poet Leonard Gontarek. His poems are lovely, searching, kind of scatterbrained and endlessly unpredictable.
But there are patterns: God has several walk-ons, particularly in the “In America” section. Praying mantises are described as either flickering like colored flames, or not. Autumn is everywhere in the collection, mentioned by name and described memorably: “Orange elms bleeding bees.”
Gontarek’s not wildly wordy, but he gets great emotional and visual mileage from short bursts of verse and perpetual curiosity about nature in transition, the half-life of sudden thoughts and people being people: “It was dusk. Everyone felt/ like dancing and singing./ No one did, except the drunk.” And then there are those unexpected quasi-miracles like “I let my arm drift out the car window and it flew away.”
If you have a book that'd be perfect for The 19102 Review (the dustier, the better), email ten.repapytic@gylime, or just drop it in the mail it to Emily Guendelsberger at Philadelphia City Paper, 30 S. 15th St., 14th floor, 19102.