el tsunami by Kevin Opstedal
(Auguste Press, San Francisco, 2004)
The ocean is open to the beach. No left- or right-hand breaks, just regular waves rolling directly in with different backdrops. If there was threat of tsunami, has now passed. If still to come would be more tension -- but the content is in the main mellow, laid back, perhaps sharing a joint or sucking on one of the Buds choppered in as they could have been at Shelley's funeral, what Opstedal describes as "One of the earliest recorded / beach barbeques."
These are littoral poems, written at the sea's edges, subject to its moods, full of aqua/marine references & images. The poems are monotone in the pure sense of the word, picking up many of their nuances, much of their color, from the surroundings. It is obviously favored territory for Opstedal, & a great deal of the book's strength derives from this continuity, this commonality. It is a much-loved stretch of the coastline, sometimes a coastline refined by the mind, so much so that it competes with & often overcomes the human love who is subject / object of many of the poems. The sense is that the person could be replaced, the aspects taken on by the new love, the change almost not apparent.
The poem I like most in the book. "In Seeming Deep Waves Returning", contains the common elements, but it uses a jet ski instead of a surfboard to power through them. Lines scrolling instead of directed enjambment, letting the words set the direction rather than selecting them according to it.
"......Given your inherent
darkness its tumult & slant to be held in your hands
or whispered along the sand in a language only the
This is the poem where the ocean floor really does shift & the coastline is subjected to something a bit more powerful than the sea in its usual variety of moods.
Mark Young is the editor of Otoliths, a journal where Kevin Opstedal's poems & drawings have appeared.