Bertram Brooker,
edited by Birk Spaxton,
Sounds Assembling: The
Poetry of Bertram Brooker

(Turnstone Press, 1980)

Bertram Brooker was a great painter-poet, and Sounds Assembling: The Poetry of Bertram Brooker shows but a small part of his skill with words. Birk Spaxton has done a wonderful job collecting and organizing the poems in this volume, most of which had not been previously published. (They were originally writen in the late '20s and early '30s.)

The poems are beautiful and powerful. It would not be far off to say that his poems were really abstract paintings in ink on paper. (Just as one could probably say his paintings were poems on canvas.) Some more so than others; for instance, "The Ice Man" can be very confusing until one realizes that it is an abstract painting, that all the lines create a picture in motion, a series of verbs.

His skill at painting form and action with words is best shown in the poems "Death of an Peacock" and "Melee Fantasque." After reading those poems, I was left wishing I had seen Kalinova dance, if only just once. And Brooker, for the most part, is as skilled at painting thoughts as he is at painting images. His poems become a strong voice speaking out from heart to heart, from the depths of the poet and into the depths of the reader.

My biggest complaint about the collection is the non-poetry that is included. And while Brooker's speeches on his paintings might help the reader understand the poetry, it only helps if one has seen the paintings that he is talking about. And I can not understand why Spaxton decided to include two book reviews with this collection of poems. It is not that they are poorly writen or unintelligent -- they just don't fit. They sit at the end like previews to somebody else's work that the editor forgot to separate from the rest.

Take the time to look this book up and read it for the poems. The rest is at best an interesting read, and at worst an annoyance that one could do without.

[ by Paul de Bruijn ]