Reviews - What do customers think about Borrowed Towns?
Poetry that makes good sense Nov 12, 2007
In "Borrowed Towns", Richard Newman lends us the rural Midwestern towns and landscapes of his child and adulthood and the weird events they host. In the woods and farms of Indiana and Illinois, Newman shows us places "so lacking / monuments the people name the ditches", a creek where a catfish poaching grandpa axes off fish heads in front of his grandson, interstate highways and adjacent cornfields, and hog-trodden backyards. Newman's characters are as real as these landscapes: the adults have shitty days at work, school mates learn hurt and hatred, romances need work, and often grief at the death of friend or family clings to them. In the "roiling experience" of all his characters, both child and adult, they are maturing: making mistakes and feeling loss, but learning. These are events and people you enjoy watching, and Newman writes so clearly that these poems are actually understandable, both in content and in language. He offers characters you can relate to in stories you can make sense of, in a style that reads smoothly.
Familiar Themes Jan 28, 2007
I read "Borrowed Towns" on the drive up to Wisconsin for summer vacation, looking up now and then from the back seat of my family's car to landscapes like the ones that many of Richard Newman's poem's evoke: endless prairies, cornfields, patches of dust with the occasional solitary house or barn. Many of the poems take you to places like these from the poet's past, where he recalls a sex talk with his father, the erosion of a love, or torturing a schoolmate with his friends. In others, he reflects on parenthood, as in a sonnet with my favorite line of the book: "only when we're too tired or strained / to feel it can we truly call it love"; or in the poem "Mowing," which has the image of his daughter on a swing set, launching into the "leafy arms of the trees." Often he records episodes of rural life that are both brutal and bizarre: a teacher who rode to school with a cat impaled on her car's antenna, a neighboring family that borrowed corn from his mother to eat, even though it was really grown for pig feed. A number of his "Monster Sonnets" are reprinted here, too, bringing us a Bigfoot who leaves signs of his presence everywhere but defies detection and a Mothra who knows that even a cherry bomb could "pound" her "back to powder." What is most admirable about the book is how the poet takes care always to communicate naturally, never to mystify needlessly, even as he works in formal verse. He touches on all the familiar themes----guilt, loss, humor, love, pride----in a language as simple as it is profound.
A Witty, Original First Collection Aug 12, 2006
Richard Newman's Borrowed Towns is deeply felt, technically proficient, witty, and original. From the movie monsters who speak with disarming frankness ("Let's face it: I make a shitty monster," the protagonist of "Mothra" confesses) to the literally unsettling reflections of "Tastes Like Chicken" ("After all, we made the chicken, bred it,/adjusted it to the human taste bud--/the bare standard we now hold to nature"), Newman's arch observations and stylistic command are joined to an unpretentious and compelling viewpoint. Throughout Borrowed Towns, popular culture and autobiography intertwine to acknowledge both the heartbreak and hope at the core of human experience. In successive poems, a vampire laments the dilemma of his vanity-- "Unlife is difficult when you're a dandy/and can't register the faintest reflection"--while, on a mountaintop, a father confides to his son, "`I don't believe in God but gravity,'" the latter poem ending with a picture of the old man "hammering/up on the roof, among the pine, kneeling/on shingles, each tiny echo of his labor/a kiss against the endless blue sky." Whether satirical or serious, lighthearted or touching, Newman's poems are always thoughtful and, best of all, fun: his work is ambitious and accessible, vivid and uncompromising, as in the mournful "Fireflies"- "Tonight my yard is full of fireflies--/a glitterfest of green, blinking by hundreds"-- or in "December Evening," a touching sonnet for Newman's daughter that ends, "On many evenings such as these I've thought/how only when we're too tired and strained/to feel it can we truly call it love." In all, Borrowed Towns is an unusually mature, outstanding first collection.
GRITTY AND SATISFYING Sep 12, 2005
Richard Newman's BORROWED TOWNS is a compilation of accessible and highly satisfying poems that include growing up in small, hardscrabble mid-western towns, right of passage mischief, and downright grown up themes of alienation, loneliness and despair. Newman's work is never self indulgent - there's not a whine in the lot. His work is straightforward,laced with humor, and leaves the reader with the dusty, dry as dirt taste of those borrowed towns.