Preacher’s Blues by Benjamin Lowenkron

Preacher’s Blues by Benjamin Lowenkron

Reviews, Vol. 4.3, Sept. 2010
Ampersand Books, 2009
Saddle-stitched, 24 pp., $7
Review by Cynthia Reeser

Benjamin S. Lowenkron’s Preacher’s Blues dives into the muddy delta waters of post-Katrina Louisiana and tosses down shots of southern sensibility like a preacher on Sunday afternoon. The strength of Lowenkron’s poetry partly lies within that sensibility, which it serves up to the reader in the form of purposeful line breaks and spacing, which in turn serve the movement and cohesiveness of each piece.

Lowenkron’s poems take you through the rubble of post-Katrina New Orleans, guiding you over religion and rubble and whiskey with the rhythm of the blues keeping time. Religion itself is turned on its head, is shown in the light of day for all its corruption and effusive, self-serving dogma, which lies scattered across the line breaks like a patchwork religion.

Bone River recurs, a theme and place both, as in “Preacher”:

Sun down                   Bone River
a hatchet and a cassock

                                               gathered limbs
a fire on the bank
parish tucked tight
Preacher sharpens his blade
sparks against whetstone
a final amen horizon

Bone River is a curse and a wish, a blessing and a prayer. The lines overlap one another like its muddy waves, and in this way, the form of the poems, in rhythm and repetition, tells the story too, that of the beautiful/ugly patchwork of the flooded city.

Lowenkron acknowledges roots, not just in terms of place, but also in terms of poetics. “Bone River Hymnal,” especially, echoes strongly of Eliot, and Bone River (the place) becomes Prufrock if Prufrock was a Louisianan:

                   strip off your skin
stretch it over the bayou
whittle them bones         beat on them drums

             Bone River takes us as Bone River does


this is the land falling into the sea
this is the land falling into the sea

Preacher sits on the levee
and plays his harp to the river
calling each wave closer to shore

Don’t miss the soul-searching wail of the sinful crying out for the divine. Visit Ampersand Books and purchase Lowenkron’s chapbook. You’ll feel redeemed.

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