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Poetry Book Review:

Confessions Of A Latter Day Cynic

by Paul J. Bean

confessions of a latter day cynicPaul J. Bean needs to quit teasing the daisies and go completely avant-garde or jump ship and learn to eat shark meat.

Confessions of a Latter Day Cynic makes promises it doesn't keep. I saw very little cynicism and a bit too much confession. Even when he manages to slice out a decent poem, or even a halfway marvelous line, Bean ruins it with an archaic syntax or the use of a word one would find only in a movie script (He shows his actor's face with the overuse of the word "exeunt".)

But if that isn't enough, Bean's idea of avant-garde is to right justify a poem whose title is "Left Justify". It's probably the best poem in the book, or damn close.

The jacket notes read:

Filled with yearning, righteous angst and an off-hand nostalgia, Confessions of a Latter-Day Cynic marks the work of a poet in the throws (sic) of a mid-youth crisis. Romantic delusions, career woes and grandiose ideals are all exposed here in these pages. Paul J. Bean deftly juggles these varying concepts while maintaining a wily, and, at times, wistful perspective.

And I'd say a bit too wistful for my tastes. Many of the poems read like a Mormon prayer book.

Bean names among his influences such stalwarts as John Keats, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sylvia Plath, and T.S. Eliot. Pity. Most of his lines read as if they could have been written in the 17th century by an out of work actor.

It would be an overstatement, however, to say that there were no good poems in Confessions of a Latter Day Cynic. Indeed, there are a few. But most of the verse is hackneyed and overwritten. Bean seems to be trying too hard and much of the time he is imitating patterns that have fallen out of use. His rhymes stifle and his meter is off. But when he hits the target he splits it in half as in this poem, titled "No Apology":

click! went the phone, a prelude to a week long symphony of silence as weakly i conducted the blotchy score for deaf musicians, the crowd cried 'more' and haplessly i obliged, strings on all sides, the cacophony of chance, Salome's dance around my sweated brow as i waved my arms, hoping to cue the emotions of discord, the heart-clefting refrain which doomed to remain, as relentless as the chilling cadence of the monotone A.
Ironically, Paul J. Bean in this poem isn't trying to impress Thomas Gray and writes a stunning piece that is slightly avant, not in the least traditional, and realizes a unique voice. You may find a couple more gems buried in Confessions Of A Latter Day Cynic, but by and large it aspires only to be a family heirloom.

Order your copy of

Confessions Of A Latter Day Cynic
by Paul J. Bean


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