Saturday, May 2, 2009


By Bruce Dethlefsen
83 pages / 59 poems / $15
Fire Weed Press
Send Check or Order To:
Bruce Dethlefsen, 422 Lawrence St, Westfield, WI 53964
Review by Charles P. Ries
Word Count = 308

Bruce Dethlefsen doesn’t write many books of poetry. It’s been six years since he came out with his second book, Something Near the Dance Floor by Marsh River Editions. And one doesn’t see much of his poetry in and around the small press, but my-oh-my, when he decides to show us his good stuff, he comes out swinging. In this, his third and largest collection of poetry, Dethlefsen does most everything right. He is a master of drawing word pictures that are at once narrative stories, melodies, and free association free-for-alls.

The book is broken into five sections that broadly define the thematic mood of Dethlefsen’s mind: migrant, knots, poet warrior, secrets, and autopsy. There is great kindness here, and a mind with a very wide reach.

Here are two poems from Breather:

Playing the Field

you hover
you say I’m not your first flower
your first lover

you lower yourself
how hoverly
how loverly
then leave

oh bee
my honey boy
oh baby mine
come back to me


When Somebody Calls after Ten P.M.

when somebody calls after ten p.m.
and you live in wisconsin
and you’re snug in your bed

then all’s I can tell you
somebody better be missing
somebody better had a baby
or somebody better be dead.

In Breather, Dethlefsen flows from the concrete to ethereal. He orbits around the collective unconscious like a Jungian astronaut - his interior radar big enough to find meaning in both the great moments and the small nuances of life. This is the blessing of the mature poet – one who has lived hundreds of lives and can bring this diversity of experience to us as a numinous pool of images to soak in. Breather is an exceptional collection of poetry.

Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory, and five books of poetry. Most recently he was awarded the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association “Jade Ring” Award for humorous poetry. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot. He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore and a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission. But most of all he is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes. You may find additional samples of his work here.