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Reading The Water (1997)
I found this one in the Dartmouth Bookstore Basement for $1 and what with it being National Poetry Month (April) and the cover blurb declaring it the winner of the 1997 Samuel French Morse Poetry Prize (no I've never heard of it either), I figured I'd give it a shot. It was four quarters well spent.
Using traditional poetry forms and the incidents of everyday life, Webb crafts some really witty and wonderful little poems. Whether he's writing about a Cristo art project (Umbrellas) or The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Twenty Years Too Late to See The Rocky Horror...), he uncovers the amazing in the mundane. Several have a pretty sharp edge to them, like Prayer for the Man Who Mugged My Father, 72--suffice it to say, the mugger hopes the prayer doesn't come to pass. And a couple are just really funny, like Broken Toe, where the title occurrence at least snaps him out of his middle aged complacency. And I found one image that for me really captures what poetry can do at its best, the clever use of words to paint an indelible image. It's from the poem Spiders:
Their webs, transparent fielders' gloves,
The baseball analogy alone is enough to get my attention, but the play on the word flies exemplifies the cleverness on display throughout this collection.
The poems of Charles Harper Webb are well worth checking out. I found a bunch of his poems on-line and linked to them below--give them a try and if you see the book for $1, grab it.
-POEM: "Coach Class Seats" from Charles Harper Webb's Liver (Poetry Daily)
-POEM: Tone of Voice (Poetry Daily)
-POEMS: Charles Harper Webb (Cortland Review, Issue #5)
-POEMS: Charles Harper Webb (Cortland Review, Issue #10)
-POEM: Charles Harper Webb What We Believe (Jacket)
-POEM: "TAKE OFF YOUR BRA, IT'S OUR ONLY CHANCE!"(Charles Harper Webb, River City)
-AWARDS: Kate Tufts Discovery Award (1998)
-AWARDS: Morse Poetry Prize (Northwestern)