Saturday, 28 December 2013

Russell H Ragsdale - A Yankee Poet in the Old World

Russell Ragsdale is a large man, not just his physical frame but his presence which pulses in his work. You sense it as it moves lightly and with delicate ease throughout his poetry. It is like a panther stalking its prey – you just feel it there on the short hairs that rise on the nape of your neck.  You sense his will coruscating within each line, each stanza, ranging around the periphery of the verse oiled and muscled as it stirs powerful thoughts that itch at your subconsciousness like a nagging doubt. But there should be no doubts about how good his work is.


I enjoyed ‘Book of Aliases’ praising it on Amazon. It deserved the kind words it received from friends and critics. And if I was guilty, as some suggested, of paying false praise to a friend out of the kindness of my heart, of making gentle and easy going criticism - something I'd refute,  then that jibe cannot be pinned onto ‘Dragon Scales and Fireflies.’ It is a collection that boggles the mind before the mind knows it’s been boggled.


'Book of Aliases'
Like all poems, these sound best when read aloud. Better still when the man does the reading as he did on a recent ‘Youtube’ piece. That gentle, big-hearted Californian accent, rich and mellow and rhythmic pays scant attention to the humdrum mundanity of modern life. It lifts you up with casual ease and spins the world as the writer wants it viewed. It is an honest opinion passed with a directness that beggars belief. Such simplicity applied to such deep issues. 

The fact that few know of this man's talent is a hard pill to swallow if like me you have been privileged to read and hear his work.

There is something akin to jazz in the way the words shift and roll, something of the beats remembered but not imitated -  a freedom of structure that dips and drives, pirouettes and pauses where you would not expect such subtleties to be. 

This is free flow poetry held loosely in a masters hand. The reins are there but so very gently applied.


'Dragon Scales and Fireflies'


There is an absence of punctuation. There is silence in the spaces.This adds a feeling of fluidity which allows self-expression to merge with the readers imagination. It as a musicality that is not dissimilar to listening to jazz. If Ornette Coleman were to put down his saxophone and pick up the pen then perhaps his words would sound not unlike those of Russell Ragsdale.
This serpentine quality adds flavour. Even before hearing the poems read by their author you know exactly what his voice will sound like - rich and smooth like bourbon. They are as much a part of him as his beard.

They say that life begins at forty. I would suggest they are wrong. For Russell H Ragsdale the only difference between him and a man of twenty is experience. The energy is still there in abundance along with potent emotions and fond recall. Do yourselves a favour, give poetry a chance and discover here, with this American in Europe, how good poetry should read

The following are two of my favourites. They are bright as the fireflies of the title. The first is 'Paris' - a city of beauty and romance and the second 'Maverick' which neatly describes the author.

Paris.

you in satin
gowns of moonlight
rolling down narrow
streets of rock
silver plated
sinuous and flowing
below sacre coeur
instinctively hesitant
as my eyes follow
life jammed
on hills
on fringes of sidewalks
couples eager
groups of friends

you have heard the
jaded calliope that
is moulin rouge and
sauntered broad champs
dredging chanel
from slipstreams
of aggressive chic

in tired eyes
of early morning
you roll your
plastic bins out

i have seen you
waking and sleeping
and long to stroke
your elegantly homely
face with

my restless limbs

Maverick


i always thought there
would come a day when
i got old and
would become quiet
normal 

still i love to party
am rather outrageous

there seems
no end to my ability
to drink all night
dance until dawn

to fall in love as
crushingly as a solar system
caught by a black hole 

simply put
i'm incorrigible
i love it 
where does one
ever go from here

last night i watched
sound of music
tonight i watched
my fair lady 

my superficiality is
kicking in like gravity
on a low level satellite
i can't seem to escape   

still i am as
passionate as the mad hatter
because i believe
in the force of goodness
in spite of the insanity

of how i live 
God have mercy
on this - infinitely
foolish old man 



 Ragsdale, Russell H. (2013-07-12). Dragon Scales and Fireflies (Kindle Locations 186-189). Bookbaby. Kindle Edition. 


 .
 Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers and stuff's that Turkey with warm sage and onion.

1 comment:

Helena Philomena Liebekraft said...

A nice find. Thanks for sharing it!