Publisher and Publication Date: Viewless Wings Press. March 16, 2022.
Format: E-book, pdf.
Source: I received a complimentary pdf copy from Poetic Book Tours and James Morehead. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Poetry readers.
Link for the book @ Amazon.
James Morehead is Poet Laureate of Dublin, CA. portraits of red and gray is
his second collection, and he hosts the Viewless Wings Poetry Podcast. James’ poem “tethered” was transformed into an award-winning animated short film, “gallery” was set to music for baritone and piano, and his poems have appeared in numerous publications. He is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Summary of the Collection:
Take an unforgettable journey from the Cold War USSR to Savery, Wyoming, from the mountains of Tuscany to the peak of Yosemite’s Half Dome, from the Canadian wilderness to the beaches of Normandy. James Morehead’s (Poet Laureate – Dublin, California) acclaimed collection is built around a series of memoir poems that takes readers into pre-perestroika Soviet Union through the eyes of a teenager, from Moscow to Tbilisi to Leningrad (and many stops in-between). The striking cover, designed by Zoe Norvell, is based on a 1982 lithograph by Igor Prilutsky.
“In this second collection of poems, James Morehead’s imagery is vivid, spare and elemental, and it is consistently chosen and arranged to achieve intensely poetic effects. The rhythmic control is impeccable. The centerpiece of this collection, a long series of poems that chronicle a trip through the former Soviet Union, is a fast moving, impressionistic feast of imagery. Sunglasses, denim shirts, vodka debauches, dollars, rubles, steely-eyed Russian authorities ever on the lookout for forbidden deals – all of it is transparent and engaging.” – Carmine Di Biase, Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus – Jacksonville State University.
“In portraits of red and gray by James C. Morehead we travel with him through boyhood and manhood: camping with his dad, working in his high school years far away from home every summer, his time as a teen in Russia traveling during spring break with his school. The vulnerability and humanity expressed in these poems is moving. Morehead writes, ‘…I had to wait / for my tears to dry before dropping in quarters to call home.’” – Angie Trudell Vasquez, Author and Madison, WI, Poet Laureate.
The first thing I notice about the book of poems is no capitalization. This keeps things simple!
There is a similarity to reading a book of poems and reading a book of short stories. In each case, I may like one or more of the poems or short stories but not all of them. In portraits of red and gray, I like a few of the poems but not all.
What do I mean by not liking all of the poems? Those I dislike don’t speak to me, possibly because I don’t understand them, or they are lost in translation to my mind and heart.
The poems I like are “Normandy,” “echoes in the nave;” and in the series of poems about the trip to Russia, numbers 7 and 11. In the “art form of poems” number 16 and 17. I also love “lost (and found.)”
“lost (and found.)” I love this poem because it is tender and sweet, and it reminds me of a season in my own life.
“Normandy.” My father fought on the beaches of Normandy. He survived the landing at Omaha. I visited Normandy with my dad and other family members many years ago. It is an experience I’ll not forget because dad shared his story again, remembering things he’d forgotten, and being there brought back those memories. In the poem, the graveyard at Normandy is written about in brief, but with keen observance and tenderness and with honor.
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Thank you for reading this collection and being on the tour!
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