Book Book Book Book
Commentary Commentary RSS Reviews Podcasts_Audio Podcasts RSS Blog Links Archives Indexes
Stephen Kessler
Scratch Pegasus
Swan Scythe Press
US Trade Paperback First Edition
ISBN 978-1-930-45439-2
Publication Date: 02-15-2013
94 Pages; $16
Date Reviewed: 04-14-2013
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2013

Index:  Poetry

Language is a lens through which we view the world. It colors our perceptions, bends the light, focuses and blurs, conceals that which is obvious and reveals that which is hidden. Every word we hear, every word we read adds another layer to our vision. In Stephen Kessler's collection of poetry, 'Scratch Pegasus,' the windows we find within the book don't just change the way we see our world; they give us the vision of others and visions of other worlds.

Melancholy pervades 'Scratch Pegasus,' which is divided into four sections. The opening section, "Aging Heart," feels almost like a closing chorus on an autumn evening, as Kessler evokes the feeling of deep time in our shallow lives. "This dust has history," the first poem, "Thrift Shop" tells us. The items on the shelves bring with them the memories of their journey there, and find in the reader a sad joy. In "Mal de Terre,"

I never expected
    the long days of summer
remembered anyway
    the moonlight fogged
my friends getting old
    and dropping dead

Kessler helps us find the dislocation, the unbalancing act that keeps us off-kilter even as we walk into the future on apparently steady ground. His language overlays ours but as we read it becomes ours. His ability to use space on the page, his pacing and word choice are colors in the mix, but they are not the mix. There's an ineffable more to the work we find here.

The other sections of the book are equally strong. "Some Teachers" offers ten sonnets, a form that Kessler spent time with while he was translating the work of Borges. The poems as pocket biography are particularly like the work of Borges, however. Kessler's work is particular and personal. "Wild Men" offers another collection of biography, but like the title the poems and the people range farther and wilder. The concluding poem, "Driving a Stake Through the Heart of the Beatnik Vampires" sublimates fury into suitably grim humor. There's a bit of a rant and a bit of an epic for the attention-annihilated 21st century.

The final section, "Scratch Pegasus," makes its journey towards the final poem, the title poem, a flight path carved from the hardscrabble words of "Midnight Sidewalks" and "Epiphany on 41st Street." Kessler's collection, the words you find here, do not leave us; they launch us, upward, into a vision free of language, a clear sky.

Editor's Note: The striking cover image is by Robert Weinstock.

Review Archive
All Reviews alphabetized by author.

General Fiction
Non-Genre, general fiction and literature.

Supernatural fiction, supernatural horror and non-supernatural horror.

Science Fiction
Science fiction, science fantasy, speculative fiction, alternate history.

Fantasy, surrealism and magic realism.

Crime, thrillers, mystery, suspense.

Non-Fiction, True Crime, Forteana, Reference.


Archives Indexes How to use the Agony Column Contact Us About Us