Saturday, September 18, 2010

“A Mouth for Picket Fences”, (Belfire Press), by Barry Napier

Poet Barry Napier uses subtle eroticism, 2nd-person narrative, and contrasting imagery to create portraits of everyday life laced with sinister undertones in his poetry collection, “A Mouth for Picket Fences”.

The collection is divided into three sections: Normalcy, The Darkness Weighs Us, and (in)humanity. Although each section delves into progressively darker themes, an ominous thread runs through all the poems. This darkness is subtly illustrated by contrasting it with a tableau of normality. Places drawn from the heart of Middle America, warts and all. Characters who live, love, and often keep secrets. Sunlight that makes the shadow more pronounced.

The poem from which this collection draws its title describes a visitor welcomed into a small community. Although nothing explicit is said about the man, there is a side to him the townsfolk do not see, but yet is tangible enough that the neighborhood dogs run from him in fear. The nature and extent of this man’s darkness is never explicitly stated and is left to the imagination of the reader.

What fascinates about these poems is, while the images may contrast, they seldom ever conflict. Neither the light nor the darkness is out of place; it is simply two angles from which to view the same scene. The collection challenges the reader to coalesce the darkness and light in the poems and therefore do the same in the reader’s own experience. It is no surprise that the last two lines from “Rituals of Farewell and Departure”, the last poem in the collection, read thus:

in order to see the light,

we must first come to know the darkness

“A Mouth for Picket Fences” showcases Barry Napier’s unique voice and maturing skill as a poet. His is a name worth watching, and “A Mouth for Picket Fences” is a collection worth reading.

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Brian Hatcher’s stories and poems have appeared in publications such as the Kanawha Review, Weird Tales, and Legends of the Mountain State. He performs live readings at conventions such as HorrorFind in Baltimore, and is an accomplished oral storyteller. He has been active in community theater for over fifteen years, playing a variety of roles on stage. He is a performing magician who appears at private parties and corporate benefits for companies such as the American Heart Association. His interests include carny performance (he is a trained fire-eater), stage hypnosis, music, art, psychology, science, and exploring various cultures and fields of human endeavor.

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