Charles P. Ries is the author of two poetry collections, BAD MONK: NEITHER HERE NOR THERE and MONJE MALO SPEAKS ENGLISH, both published by Foursep Publications. He has written a novel and his work has received two Pushcart Prize nominations. His poems, poetry book reviews, and short stories have appeared in over eighty print and web journals, including Staplegun Press, Free Verse, Pearl, Pitchfork, and Half Drunk Muse.
At first, ODD appeared to be a strange title for this exceptionally well-written collection of 28 poems. And the surreal cover illustration seemed more peculiar: a shirtless man with angel wings covering his ears, shadowed by a demon, and struggling to carry a huge head on his back spilling forth a lifetime of worries. But upon finishing this chapbook, I agree the title ODD and the excellent illustration by Gabriel Ries are indeed perfect choices.
ODD is actually a saga highlighting the plight of a spiritual pilgrim, a poet whose approach to life is too mentally and emotionally complicated to achieve his goal: spiritual happiness. Unfortunately, the spiritual path requires simplicity. Thus, his dilemma. From the first poem to the last, we follow this complicated man through the maze of his life, encountering bums, bag ladies, barrooms, Spanish beauties, love lost, singles mixers, his first divorce, his second divorce, and a fish named Mike.
Only Ries could expertly handle such a perplexing character, a complex man who sincerely seeks the happiness and joy of the spiritual life, yet fails to realize simplicity is the key to attainment. “I like to disappear into my head where it / doesn’t cost too much to be alone. I see a horizon / in the distance lying between the vistas / of my temples – spreading from my left ear / to my right ear. // In here I astro project, read people thoughts / and see the future. In here I bring the dead back / to life and turn my tears to snowflakes. // It’s a vast cine plex between my ears. A world teeming / with perfect lovers and sleeping demons. A theater in / the round where I view my life against the movie screen / God attached to the backside of my eyeballs.”
Even though his goal continues to elude him, he manages to gather quite a few spiritual jewels along the way:
“Our thoughts are like dancers, two / inter-mingled, co-existing electrons / spinning around the same nucleus. // I wonder if wishing sets thoughts in motion, / causing invisible ripples in the unseen? / Ripples that carry our secrets to God?” (POETS NOVA)
“Maybe stars are the souls of the glimmering dead, or perhaps meteors are / the tear drops of souls soon to be returned. Souls like me who dread their / plunge back into life’s unpredictable sea. ” (STARS SUSPENDED FROM BRANCHES)
“Once I was a blade of grass and the breeze passed / above me and rubbed against me, bending me. “Such / freedom,” I thought. “To be a breeze. To soar high above / and close to the ground, to be rootless in air.” // Once I was a human, I had complex thoughts and confusions. / I yearned for wealth and love and power and good looks. / All this yearning tired me and gave me migraine headaches. / Headaches so vast and out of control they robbed my sleep / and made me vomit. And as I lay on my couch, half in, / half out of awareness, from the sleeping pills and pain killers, / I remembered myself as a blade of grass turning my side to / the sun and my tongue to the rain and my roots to China, / and I ached to be simply green again.” (ONCE AGAIN)
“And through seasons and / doubts and changes of fashion / they discover their relationship, / unearthing a heart painted in a / bold brush stroke and the message, / it has been better to love.” (VALENTINE)
But in the end revelation strikes, and the poet realizes spiritual joy can only be found in simplicity, which Ries expresses beautifully in the Taoist-like title poem ODD: “They can’t hear it. / They don’t listen to leaves / in the moon light. The mystical / whisper of branches rubbing. // Funny what happens to a life / when the trees start talking to you. / When you hear the voices of your / garden.” Is the road to spiritual joy really that simple? That odd? Yes, it is.
This is a finely crafted collection of poetry, one that leads the reader through the bewildering ocean of anxiety and melancholy many face during the course of their lives and relationships to the land of hope and light. What a delightful twist that the poet should find this spiritual paradise waiting for him in his own backyard. Ries is not only a talented poet, but also an engaging storyteller, and ODD is the perfect collection for anyone seeking refuge from a world that grows more complicated by the hour.
About the author:
Laura Stamps is an award-winning poet and novelist. Over five hundred of her poems, short stories, and poetry book reviews have appeared in literary journals, magazines, anthologies, and broadsides, including the Louisiana Review, Ibbetson Update, Big City Lit, Poesy Magazine, Lucid Moon, American Writing, Fullosia Press, and Lummox Journal. She is the author of more than twenty-five books of poetry and prose. Her fiction chapbook “White Porches” was a Semi-Finalist in the 2004 Winnow Press Chapbook Award in Fiction Competition. Her chapbook “In the Garden” was a Top-Finalist in the 2004 Blue Light Press Poetry Prize and Chapbook Competition and is published by The Moon. Two of her poems are included in the celebrity anthology “Open My Eyes, Open My Soul” (2003, McGraw-Hill Books). More information about books by Laura Stamps can be found at www.kittyfeatherpress.blogspot.com.