Sowing Nightshade in the Wastelands of Cities
by Ralph Gunther Mohnnau (Translated by Christopher Martin)
Trafford Publishing

"I leap off my henna-haired love
ok by my
come to snakes
count me out
there I’m as thin-skinned as a dragonfly’s wings"

With ee cummings-like force and images that defy definition and a page's boundaries, the poems in this collection take readers on a sonic, visual, sensorial, and, at times, scientific journey. In keenly observant imagistic snapshots, pieces like "LH 422 MUC/FRA" capture the intermingling of one person's continuation in life while a young woman reckons with her husband's death. The collection waxes medical in the poem "hello dr. barnard/ still with us dr. barnard?" which explores and questions the humanity (or lack of) exhibited in some of the world's most prolific and history-altering surgeries such as the heart transplant. "PUNK'O'LOVE" transports the audience into a whirlwind of hyper-sanity where a seemingly naïve narrator encounters a tour de force punk rock femme fatale and enters a once-in-a-life-time sensual experience. That sensual transportation continues until the collection's end where, in a humble denouement, the poem "self-portrait" claims "what I am / am not / is love / is not love / is love."

In an abolishment of traditional form, these poems establish the author as an authority on literary experimentation. The pieces in this collection blend small aspects of Dadaism with humble, humanist observations. Others possess an anarchic, punk-rock tone where grittiness and edginess are key to Baudelaire-like poems such as "ode to fourteen-year-old junkie stella j": "still she lay there / in what seemed a smile / deeply immersed in the peace / of a star-world / millions o flight-years away." The beauty of this collection lies in that in nearly every poem the lines can act alone or in tandem, creating a dual experience of fierce individualism on one level and of interdependence on another. With its erratic use of typography and spacing, this work comes across as if Emerson and Goethe were to meet Picasso and Max Ernst on the same page.

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