Near Death / Near Life

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By Dennis Maulsby


Once again, I caution everyone to please not send me requests for poetry. I will turn them down. This is one of those very rare instances where I was intrigued by this man's work and decided to give it a shot.


This book is a collection of poems and haiku. Many deal with war and most of those center on Vietnam. The non-war selections deal with...well, life. Beauty, women, the little idiosyncrasies we can look at and admire, or be amused by. There is a nice mixture of death and life poetry and not all of the death shows in the war poems.

I thought the mixture well presented. Too much of either would be a drag or depressing. Granted, the war poems are not happy go lucky, but it’s understandable. War in the real world isn’t fun.


The only character in this book is the author himself. His ideas. His thoughts. His personality. His daydreams. His memories. His view of certain moments in history, of life.


It’s poetry folks, not conversation. However..

Poetry IS dialogue in a sense and lest you think I dive too deep, just think about it for a moment. Or two. The author speaks to us in his words, his phraseology, his thoughts on paper. He speaks to us and we either listen or put down the book and go to something else.

Sure, there are pieces of quotation. In some of the poems somebody speaks. These times fit with the individual poem.


What can I say? I’m not a huge fan of poetry. I took a poetry class in college only because I liked the professor and understood/enjoyed very few poems that we read.

I don’t ‘get’ poetry, let alone haiku. I think trying to develop a three line piece of writing where there are rules on the number of syllables is too difficult.

I don’t buy poetry books. I don’t read poetry.

Having the above in mind, I can still comment on the author’s writing. He presents his work ‘as is’. What I mean is, he doesn’t spin the material into something that’s it’s not. Most of the poems are one page or less so I didn’t have to keep track of the gestalt throughout pages and pages of lines.

The author uses words very well. While I understood what he was trying to present in all of them, there were a few that I found notable because of his writing style.

- Kill Zone Requiem: very well done imagery.

- Omaha Beach: this presented a different view from an individual, other than what is oft seen in movies.

- Journey Music: a history of music throughout the eons.

- Soldiers’ Dream of Myrtle Beach 1966: gritty and realistic

- They’re Alive, Alive… & Bad Santa: Two poems that show the author’s whimsical, humorous side. Bad Santa was my favorite in the book.

- In the Slow Flow: again imagery and the last two lines really bring it home.

So, the anticipated rank. How do I rank a book of poems when I don’t read poetry? How do I rank a bunch of non-rhyming lines about wars I never knew, about experiences I’ve never had?

Like so many other books, it comes down to the like-ability factor. Did I enjoy the book? Would I read more of this author’s material?

I know the author wouldn’t want anything but honesty from a reviewer so the answer to both questions is: yes.

My Rank:

Brown Belt