Jack Conway,
Life Sentences
(North Country, 2002)

I loved the title. The first ambitious words the poet shares in his 64-page volume gives the reader pause for thought. That's what poetry's all about, right? So I paused, thinking what these particular words might unleash for this poet. Moving along, I read the index, beginning to see what may turn out to be a preoccupation with death and darkness, for instance, in "Hang Gliding Over a Volcano," "Kite Flying at Night," "You Can't Catch Death," "Skeletons in a Tree" and "The Robert Lowell Memorial Bowling Trophy." After a little more pause for thought, I pressed on.

I discovered that the man's got rhythm, style and diversity, not exactly in that order. The words have meaning, the sentences passion, the poems messages -- and he's not so preoccupied by death as reminiscent. Amazingly, I often felt like I was there! The experience proved much more than I was expecting from the thin volume. I liked it!

One of my favorite of Conway's shorter creations (most are long), "Kite Flying At Night," a concrete (shape) poem packed with a big lesson in the sparest of words:

    important thing
      is never let
       it get

Brilliant, I say! And then there's "Wolves."


I'll admit, it took me half a second, but then I got it. What a wit! Although, I must throw in my two cents and point out that the title should have been "Wolf." Still, it works. Honestly and surprisingly, all the poems work! They're nostalgic, clever and most of all, real. Conway has lots to say in his life's sentences, and they're words worth listening to.

Admittedly, I began this poetry chapbook with some trepidation (which could be attributed to the generic red/brown cover with an enlarged, standard looking font). However, I shouldn't have spooked myself. Here, Conway reprints poems published in notable magazines, journals and anthologies, such as The Norton Anthology of Light Verse (Russell Baker, editor), Yankee Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Poetry Motel and more. And rightfully so -- they're good poems that speak out loud.

- Rambles
written by Lynne Remick
published 14 December 2002