Oyster Boy Review 18  
  Winter 2003–4
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Various Works by John Martone

Jeffery Beam

Various titles & publishers.
John Martone.

John Martone is a writer working in the great tradition of the self-published poet bookmaker, adept at one as at the other. His self-printed chapbooks are as spare and elegant as his poems. The poems, like Massey's, concentrate and pop open quickly but quietly. Martone's poems seldom change form—single words (and sometimes even just parts of words) strung down the page like prayer beads can be trying. The aesthetic risks boredom and I've heard some critics dismiss the form as trite, self-conscious, and meaningless. I have to admit I much prefer Scottish poet Tom Clark's varying line. Clark works in a similar Zen-like spirit. His poems shed any haiku similarities for a more Celtic honing. Martone's eastern strengths, however, are very admirable. If the reader willingly suspends disbelief (as we so easily do with fiction and movies) so as to give oneself entirely into the paced ladder of words, then each syllable becomes a ringing bell—each single breath a little koan or stretched line of breaths and moments tied together with other breath-moments forming an intimately textured warp and weft of living time—the poet's life, thoughts, and search for illuminating acceptance in single cloth.