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spacer.gif   STYLE THREE: THE COSMIC PINBALL STYLE
Posted by : cj on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 10:49 PM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
Celibate Dazzled
by Larry Janowski
Franciscan University Press
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


Celibate Dazzled is what a chapbook ought to be, a one sit read, short in length, gigantic in depth. Simple. Yet eloquent. This chapbook is a collection of fifteen poems that are related, for the most part, in theme. Janowski searches for sacred words in this book, though not in a naive or pompous way, but, instead, with the resolve that he is but a pinball being bounced around by the will of God, through his life and through all the mysteries within it. The beauty of this poetry is that Janowski relishes his human imperfection:

cut off every
other thing and
one, swallow
pain like wine,
smiling, drugged
on purest Spirit,

proof that You
exist, the mere dregs
of You enough
to feel or fill
another day. But
this hole in me

is not wholly
holy yet (if ever
it will be), is still
child-round and
lover-shaped


(from What Celibacy Is)

Janowski's spiritual verse is humble in its wisdom. It can be looked at as an imcomplete documentation of the temptations and hurdles he has faced and still faces during his 35 years as a Fanciscan friar: his jealousy of those blessed with children, his desire for beautiful women, his longing for "another shot." It is through his confession that he is and will always be less than god-like that Janowski finds himself closer to God:

there's no shame left in nakedness, though there are scars—
the only things that do not change.

One, navel to pubis, where I've been recently
opened, flesh peeled back like a tin, in ropey tissue
testifies that hands other than God's have been
messing around inside . . .


(from Full Frontal)

Even those who normally wouldn't like religious poetry can enjoy this book, because the work in Celibate Dazzled transcends the ongoing theme, thanks to Janowski's mastery of the English language and his willingness not to show it off. This sampling of poetry from an After Hours magazine regular is heart warming and inspiring:

ENOUGH

To breathe is enough. No more—

except perhaps, desire,
a little lust to prove I'm alive

and loss to know I can love.
Just that then, and I will have

no more wants, nothing more—
except maybe some sense-

es: one to smell burnt toast, another
to see purple blood of crushed

black iris, and one alert to obey
the booming gong call to prayer,

and to taste the way apples smell
fallen and rock-struck, split

open beneath a tree, to feel rain
trickle through my hair

into my eyes. There! I'll cry,
enough! and be satisfied.

Except


However, something really bothers me about poems that begin with epigraphs. To me, it's as if the poet is either admitting that someone else has already said it better, or is trying to make use of a well read mind by including an item of inspiration. Either way, epigraphs seldom do poems justice and serve to take the focus away from the originality of the work. Unfortunately, Larry Janowski is no exception. He quotes everything and everyone from the Bible to Sydney Carter (Lord of the Dance), with little effect. While reading Celibate Dazzled, skip the epigraphs and just read the Franciscan poetry.

--C. J. Laity

GO TO STYLE FOUR

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Note: Celibate Dazzled is what a chapbook ought to be, a one sit read, short in length, gigantic in depth.

 
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