THE HORIZONTAL POET
In her newest book of poetry, “The Horizontal Poet,” Oakland poet, Jan Steckel, a retired pediatrician, reveals how she sees life from the perspective of lying on her back – a necessity because of an injury. Hers is an open, honest, and deep reflection of her psyche, her determination and desire to help others, and love – sexual and agape. It comes not from a standing, face to face concept of what she sees in front of her, but from insights which she draws from her body, soul, and mind.
The first poem in the collection, “History of Our Love,” is an example of how she finds poems in her body and mind (an anatomy class perhaps?), in which she uses bones in a delightful way to describe a special love affair. You can almost hear those bones rubbing against each other. And the other side of love is portrayed in the poem, “Dios le bendiga,” where her agape propels her to give her telephone number to a suffering patient. She uses soul to go deep into the heart of a pesky loveable boy in “The Wind and the Boy.”
She accomplishes this through her skill and use of original, imaginative, humorous, poetic devices such as concrete images like,” an axe under the front bench seat of his rust-and dist-brown Chevy Nova, in “Home Run,” active verbs: staggered laughing over the cobblestones in “Behind the Palisades, metaphors like The freeway was a river of particulate light, in “Metamorphosis,” and compression in “Jericho” where her point is made in a humorous three line allusion to a Bible story. She enables us to feel her joys and pain without so much as a touch of whining. Deep – yet accessible. It’s as though she stops at the threshold of an unfamiliar scene or word, then flings the door wide open so we can see what’s inside – using what Wallace Stevens calls, “first time viewpoint.”.
Jan exposes the horror of injustice not just through a political word but by visualized picture words that result in a video playing in our brain tabout, “Haditha;” she tells how she learned to know her father in “Cancer and the Man;” broke our hearts in “The Underwater Hospital;” shows acceptance of others in “Declaration of Independence; enables us, from her perspective as a doctor, to feel a patient’s pain; and knows just where to give a healing touch to those sore spots. She uses free verse in a variety of styles in the collection – one takes over three pages and another 3 lines; another uses her imaginative interspersion of sections from an old poem that elucidates the meaning of ”Swallowing Flies” in subtle ways.
Her explicitness concerning sex in some of the poems might startle readers, but here again she leads us to accept human nature. Jan’s poems reveal a beautiful soul.
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Oakland, CA 94619
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