Lots of people know Dorien Grey as the writer of elegant mystery novels. I too am a fan of his mysteries, but I have also long enjoyed the occasional poem he shared with his fans, so it was a treat to have an entire collection of them to savor—better yet, I had the probably unique experience of both reading them in print and listening to them in audio at much the same time.
First, let me say that savor them I have indeed. The offerings are an eclectic bunch, short, long, humorous, poignant and even, at times, somewhat scary, in the sense that they bring their readers/listeners face to face with some elements of themselves they might well rather not have faced.
As to print versus audio…well, I have long held the opinion that there are very few (and this is true even among some very fine actors) who can do poetry justice reading it aloud. I’m not sure exactly why that is. It is just as true in music. There are many very fine singers who can do wonderful things with a melodic line, but there is a very good reason why Sinatra was inevitably singled out for his “phrasing,” which mostly means making the sung line sound natural, even conversational, while at the same time preserving its beat, the rhyme—in short, the poetry of each song.
I wish I could say that Jeff Schine does as masterful a job with Dorien’s poems. He doesn’t. Nor is he ever truly bad – indeed, except for his insistence on pronouncing po-em as “pome” he is often quite good, sometimes heartbreakingly so, as in the two bookended poems titled Fate 1 (The Boy with the Poppyseed Buns) and Fate 2 (The Man in the Spanish Café), which I confess gave me a catch in the throat.
Bottom line, in the real world, this is a collection of really first rate poems, delivered about as well as one might ask in today’s not so artful world. It isn’t quite 5 stars, but too good to rate as 4 stars, so I am cheating a bit on the side of the angels. All in all, highly recommended.
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