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Summer 2008, vol 6 no 2

this hunger, tissue-thin
by Larry Kimmel
A Review by Marjorie Buettner


Someone once asked me what I thought was indicative of a good poem. There are poems which affect the mind, sweet illumination; there are poems that affect the heart, deep satisfaction; and then there are poems that affect the solar plexus, taking your breath away with one great blow of intense recognition. this hunger, tissue-thin by Larry Kimmel affects the solar plexus; these poems catch you off guard, sweep you off your feet, your balanced alignment faltering. The only thing you can do is read and re-read these poems, appreciating the deep layers of interpretation, the magical sound each vowel in consort makes; ultimately, you are charmed, beguiled and bewitched. Here is an example of this deep poetry:

again tonight
along the color-ribboned river
I feel its frail insistence—
this hunger, tissue thin
behind my breastbone.

Did you feel that jolt in your solar plexus? Something shifted and quaked with "this hunger, tissue thin." Here is another evocative poem:

stark from the shower
to answer the phone,
she dons a robe
of the finest distance . . .
the girl with spring desire

Kimmel's tanka are at times regretful, at times reverential. He is a sense oriented poet who is not afraid to see the world:

for fifty years
through all the weathers
of the mind,
I have loved the world with my eye
. . . if nothing else, that

He is a poet who holds nothing back:

her breast fits
like a fruit in the curve
of the small guitar—
and I would be her Picasso,
some Spanish afternoon

on the station platform
in a feathering of snow
I see her first—
in my chest
a stop-motion rose . o p e n i n g

He is open always to the vagaries of life, love and memory. When he remembers, he pulls the reader, too, into his memory and we are awash in the instant; this is wonderful magic akin to E. E. Cummings's "In Just-Spring":

the wee crystal ball
from my son's marble bag—
the whole of those
muddy, moisty, green-veiled
pussywillow days

His images are psychologically reflective and impressive:

the gnarled apple tree in winter
now lush with leaves
        —the twists
         and turns of growth,
my own strange armature

first light
morphing into shadowless dawn
perfect stillness
what I am I am
right here       right now

Though Kimmel's poetry has at times an underlying sense of regret as age takes away what was once a surety, his personal battle becomes, with poetic grace and aplomb, an archetypal journey into the dark, middle way:

touch …touch …
the skipping stone hits
the farther bank …
suddenly I am old
and understand nothing

And there it is again—that breath being knocked out of you; it is an understanding that goes deeper than words.

Despite the sense of regret and the passage of time, Kimmel's poetry has achieved—with so few words—what most poets never achieve: purity of depth and perception:

what delighted me most
now leaving me

And in Kimmel's wisdom and insight he accepts, as we do ultimately, the limitations of age and time; still, that book by the couch—this hunger, tissue-thin—is friend enough this winter's night. Share it.

in the light
of the hurricane lantern,
the walking stick
by the cabin door—
friend enough this winter night


this hunger, tissue thin: new & selected tanka 1995-2005
by Larry Kimmel
Modern English Tanka Press, 2007
Soft cover, perfect bound
6" x 9", 113 pages
ISBN 978-0-6151-8246-9
Available from the Publisher at
PO Box 43717
Baltimore, Maryland 21236 USA