Poetry For the Common Man: Storoems & Poems|
By Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.
Reviewed by Alex Shapiro
"Poetry For the Common Man" is a collection of storoems and poems inspired from everyday life,
written for everyday people. The verse talks about love and about life's beauty, its successes and
sorrows. It tells stories about people, the nature and pets surrounding them. Each poem or storoem is a
lesson in life, as part of our course in life's wisdom. The tone alternates - touching or funny,
sprinkled with wit and wisdom or tuned in to reader's deepest feelings.
"How Could It Be?" is a rhetorical question about love as integral part of life, for better and for worse.
The poem is a reverie of any man's life as "He awaits a report on his wife; whether she will live or die."
"'I'll Never Love Again'" can be the decision taken by any "little boy" facing the "shallow grave" of his
dog. But life goes on and soon the boy learns that his heart 'has been empowered with the capacity to
fill with love, [...] to shatter from grief and anger at love's loss... yet to retain the ability to heal
and mend into a vessel for new love."
Love knows no boundaries during our "earthy" life and after. "A Tree of Love" is a poetic proof of love's
eternity. Its verse tells a story of "exquisite love"and, as all the poems and storoms in the collection,
ends with a twist, but also with a promise of eternity - "In Heaven [...] I'll be waiting for you there."
"Rosie and Maggie" is an it-can-happen-to-you poem about friendship. The poet introduces his reader to
two women, Rosie and Maggie, who, in time, become best of friends and are there for each other in times of
need. The message? Use "kindness" to help others and help will come your way, too.
The poetry in "Poetry For the Common Man" collection doesn't only bring back sweet memories and sometimes
tears, but also wit and laughter. One funny, mundane poem that keeps the reader gasping for more until the
last verse is "True Lust." This is a must-read, if only to relax the mind and put a smile on the face at
the end of a stressful workday. The beginning of this short poem is enough to stir the reader's curiosity -
"I spy you from across the way/being handled by another man./God!"
In "Wildfire!" the poet takes an unusual role, identifying himself with a wildfire that leaves "only
charred, complete desolation" behind and grows indestructible, "ever larger uncontrollably,/as
firefighters with ant-like persistence/marshal themselves at [wildfire's] periphery/then steadily
retreat before [its] fury." Soon, the fire becomes fearful of "the living beast that [it has] become!"
This powerful poem sends a true-to-life message. Is there an uncontrollable "beast" hiding inside each one
"Brotherly Love" is a storoem - or, as the poet explains the term, a story "told using poetic
techniques" - written in a fairy-tale like style, "In ancient times in lands quite far, far away/existed a
kingdom renowned for peace and harmony." The verse tells a story of love and family values, faith and
devotion. How far one can go for "brotherly love?" The last verse is the answer, in the form of a short
note - "Brother, I do this out of great love for you."
In "The Mockingbird Sings at Night" the poet wonders about the bird's miraculous voice, "Why is it nature's
plan/for the mockingbird alone/to sing so sweetly,/ to using so fervently,/in the dead of night?"
"Why the Nighttime Songster Sings" explains why the bird's singing is "a debate."
"The Wall" is a short, emotional poem, an ode to the soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. The verse is as
much touching, as it is educational - "So many soldiers killed, perished in their country's fight. /
58,226! Imagine 58,226 corps lying on bloodied ground. / That's more than the entire population of
many a town." - maybe fit for an English Literature textbook.
Its first verse sets the dark tone of "The Lingering Rose." The poet paints with his words majestic
scenery, keeping the reader at the edge, eager to find out more - "A heavy frost/covered the lawn/with a
crystalline blanket/this November morn." Nothing prepares the reader for the end, when the poem becomes
the story of a "solitary soldier,/ [...]/resisting the onslaught/of cold weather/[...]/heroically
fighting/the unwinnable battle, not ready to submit to winter's sleep."
"A Matter of Honesty" is a lesson about honesty,passed on from generation to generation, from father
to son - " I wasn't concerned about teaching him honesty, just you." The poet teaches this lesson and
passes it on to his readers with wisdom and wit.
Those who love or are in love don't need a "too commercial" Valentine's Day to celebrate their love
because they do it every day. Why? Because "True Love Is..." the poet explains in several simple,
mundane, definitions of pure love, inspired from everyday reality. Indeed, "...True love is all this
and more! It is..."
Kill or be killed... if you want to survive. "On the Cruelty in Nature" explores with wit, wisdom, and
humor, the "way" wild animals - cheetahs and gazelles - have to survive: "For survival of her family, it
was imperative that she kill! /Death for survival always has been Nature's way, and always will." But
does "Nature's way" apply to humans, too? "Next morning over ham and eggs, [the poet] pondered
Nature's cruelty, still..."
The verse of this collection also brings up important issues. "An Act of Bioterrorism" is a serious,
realistic vision of one of the most tragic what-ifs situations threatening us all - bio-terrorism.
Nobody's immune, the perspective is grim. The "whole world" would be "successfully killed. " Well, not
totally. "The last computer model/had predicted that precisely 1.824 percent/of mankind should survive."
"On Hospitals" reflects an intriguing, yet realistic image of life inside these "buildings [...] that house
the [...] joy [...] of birth of [a] first child" through different opinions. For some, hospitals are
"places where hopes and dreams like to tide rise and fall, / as families cluster together in waiting rooms
down the hall." Also, hospitals "remind us that health is more important than wealth." They are
places "of contradiction, birth versus death, joy or grief instead,/[...]/"for most of us places to avoid
"A Man's True Legacy" is the poet's advice to those in their "second or third decade," because, "after
retirement," in the "sunset years, /lament over poor choices can only bring tears." The poet offers help,
his own life's experience, and suggests to "devote yourself to your children maximally" because "one true
legacy to centuries far away/resides in the passage of your unique DNA!"
It would be impossible to stop at each poem or storoem in the collection. I'll let the reader enjoy its
verse. "Poetry For the Common Man" enlightens as much as delights, teaches as much as brings back
reveries and sweet memories. Through its variety of subjects, the collection is a relaxing read for each
one of us, definitely a great, special gift for a special someone.
Copyright 2004 Alex Shapiro
BIO: Alex Shapiro is a book reviewer, freelance writer, and photographer with works published
online and in print under real and pen name in magazines like "SP Quill," "Writer's Digest," "A&U,"
and "Enlightened Practice." Currently she lives in New Jersey.