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Cemetery Compost by Murray Reiss
reviewed by Candice James

Cemetery Compost
Murray Reiss
Frontenac House Poetry


Cemetery Compost overturns the tombstones of loss, rebirth, memory, and castigation leaving the reader with an innate feeling of something betrayed and forgotten; sacred and remembered. There is a rich sadness in these poems that defies penury. Age, death, loss and movement toward the ever-elusive point of demise permeate the pages of this collection and leave a paper cut on the reader’s mind.

In “Your Enemy’s Heart” the surreal takes shape in columns of misty images: “Walls of fire divide the hours / and no one can sort the shapes / that move between them. //Hands break through the disfigured skin / of cities, clutching at clotted, heaving air."

We glimpse life being taken out for a cantor and exercised on the racetrack of indecision where we wager and hedge our shaky bets in the poem “Kinder To Forget”: We wait with our blinkered horses / while the answers are auctioned off.” And in “Mandarin Ghosts” Reiss nicely and oh so succinctly describes an intriguing yet annoying aspect of aging: “Some days I go into town / and everybody looks like somebody else / departed, deceased, or lost."

Cemetery Compost is a rich mix of style & content and diction & syntax. Many of these poems missed their mark with me, but some were bang on and shattered the bullseye.

Candice James is a poet, musician, visual artist, singer songwriter. She was Poet Laureate of New Westminster, BC for two 3 year terms 2010-2016. and awarded the title of Poet Laureate Emerita in November 2016 by the City. She is the author of thirteen poetry books, the most recent The Water Poems (Ekstasis Editions 2017).