Footfalls by James Eret
Reviewed by Kristen D. Scott
In James Eret´s poetry collection Footfalls (Esoteric Press, 2015), the speaker is a metaphor for a wandering Odysseus, searching for home in the midst of chaos. Such is the opening poem by the same title, “Footfalls.” The speaker reflects upon his present situation outside of Vietnam, while Chicago´s riots, and the Kennedy and Luther King assassinations haunts him. The reader glimpses the duality of his alienation in the following lines:
With the assassination of Kennedy and King,
Mayor Daley´s utterings
During the riots at the Democratic Convention –
“We are here to preserve disorder
And bludgeon the innocent marchers in Lincoln Park.
(. . .) In my dreams always lingering off the coast of Vietnam,
Wandering for too long,
Like Odysseus for an ordered home (. . .)
(30-34 & 39-41)
As the wandering Odysseus continues his haunting travels, the reader is privy to landscape through his lens. One of the most striking attributes of Eret´s writing, is his ability to make his journey real for the reader. We travel with him, meeting, experiencing, and feeling his characters such as a young man who comments suicide at Great Lakes Boot Camp, “Now he faces the diesel of the night/ And the promised freedoms of the abyss, / (…) A mere whisper in the winter air” (13, 14, & 16). One is also torn by the pains that every mother feels at the loss of a child in his non-fiction prose account of children murdered while passing through Terezin, “Who were these predators? The light of the last/ embers went out. These children, eyes burning from the cave / smoke, sought the comfort of their mother, (…) (19-21). Finally, perhaps one of his most discernable characters comes to light in his poem, “The Minefields.” The young woman in the poem is a disappearing beauty, tragically succumbing her prettiness to the horrors of her environment:
She was in the “Adult Entertainment Industry.”
Who was I to condemn anyone?
So her mother, the nurse, gave her a supply of horse pills - -
“Take these and try to stay out of harm´s way.”
This is a dark word with too many evil detours,
(…) On the lamb from the law, missing her hearing,
her boyfriend busted with a nickel bag?
(12-16 & 18-20)
In James Eret´s new poetry collection Footfalls, one travels with a modern-day Odysseus to Vietnam and beyond. The reader meets memorable characters that are fodder for further discussion – they stay with you. Eret´s images are real, there is nothing surreal about his subject matter. His lines demand that the reader looks, and does not retreat from the reality of bloodshed, war, and the atrocities they cause. However, at the heart of Footfalls there is a strange beauty that is intoxicating such as the young woman in “The Minefields,” and this beauty cannot be denied. Footfalls is what happens when one is displaced, and searches for ultimate survival.
Kristen D. Scott is a nominee of the Pushcart Prize in poetry for five works from her 2014 collection OPIATE. She is an award-winning essayist for her work on Federico Garcia Lorca and his books the Divan del Tamarit, Poet of the Deep Song, and essay, "The Duende."
She has published in several anthologies, newspapers, and ezines, including the San Diego Poetry Annuals, Nomos Review, Perigee, Alesbuyia, and published two poetry collection from Garden Oak Press; LIAISONS (2012) and OPIATE (2014). She has been translated into Arabic, Albanian, Türçe and Bengali. Recently, her work appeared in Nacional an Albanian newspaper (translated by Laureta Peshoti), and she was featured poet in MeArteka (May, 2015) where she had several poems translated into Albanian as well. Her new and selected poems are forthcoming from Garden Oak Press in 2016.
Scott is currently the Editor-In-Chief, founder, and web designer of KNOT Magazine, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, MA in English Literature, and is progressing with her Ph.D in Global Education and Comparative Literature.
Originally from Colorado, Scott has resides on the Riviera in Türkiye, where she has lived for several years.
James Eret has been involved in writing and publishing poetry for years. While completing his BFA at the University of Illinois, he was one of the founders of Another Chicago Magazine. More recently, his poetry has appeared in numerous San Diego area publications, and has been accepted for publication in Avocet and Spillway.
For many years Jim has taught creative writing, including several years as writing director for Creative Arts Consortium. His new collection of poetry, Footfalls may be found on Amazon.