Gene Barry's Unfinished Business: A Book Review by Kristen D. Scott, Ed. by Penny Perry
Gene Barry' in his new collection of poetry, Unfinished Business from Doghouse Press, points at last with children’s fingers to childhood pain and abuse. Barry’s searing and honest account of wounds, and denial, pulls the reader in. The reader sees with Barry’s eyes, even sometimes flinches with Barry’s skin. The reader roots for Barry and hopes those included in his works, receive the ablution and understanding they deserve.
Barry suggests that healing from a difficult past is a lifetime journey and will always be Unfinished Business. The poems are riveting and complex and demand careful consideration. For readers who have suffered from similar abuses the poems, though disturbing, are comforting and cathartic.
Barry often uses an adult lens to examine his past. In his poem “Letter to Self” he looks at his denial, his need to forgive himself for his mountains of inabilities, and his desire for repair:
Denial perched on my heart,
I didn't know this, couldn't have.
It arrived days when inside
my little frame and head
my dictionary had only
white pages and when pain
had nudged me on to
a tangent of self sabotage.
Those lumps of anguish encased
in childhood blindness grew into
mountains of inabilities and rejection,
steering my mother adult to dole out
the oozing jealousies and torments
to a clean new generation.
Barry’s honest and illuminating poem about abuse “ Stuffing Hanks” reveals Barry’s grit and stunning lack of self pity.
One day I will cry forever.
Not like a terrace loser,
or a baby-faced softy,
you know, a terminal cry.
I will stoke my engine with
nights-without-sleep and invasions,
childhood floggings and hidden wounds,
attacks and black-suited fiends.
I won’t forget to douse the unexpected
with rivers of anal blood and
floods of small-boy tears.
I will hold up all of those walls
I’ve fallen off and hidden behind
with screaming wrongs
and decorate my sky
with pointing children’s fingers.
A cortege of forbidden questions
will at last assemble
and trod with notice
to a brand new place of old
where every squeezed-open
pair of perfect ears
will finally embrace my slowest form of death.
One of the most heart wrenching poems in Unfinished Business deals with our discomfort with disability.
After polio had visited,
the boy it chose
was never the same.
It paralyzed his mother.
Young men lit their laughter,
Pubescent girls wondered
and dogs slowed near him;
the years after his father
could take no more.
He had paddled upstream
to a school and a room
for special people
Unfinished Business is a collection of poems as powerful as Barry’s fellow countryman Frank McCourt’s memoir Angela's Ashes. Barry has the courage to find words to name and describe wounds. Barry’s poems harsh and honest, thoughtful and tender reveal a portrait of a man who has overcome difficult odds and carved his own switchback path to healing.
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 also been translated into Arabic, Turkish and Sanskrit.
Scott is currently the Editor-In-Chief, founder, and web designer
of KNOT Magazine, holds a MFA in Creative Writing, MA in English Literature, and progressing with her Ph.D in Global Education.
She resides on the Riviera in Türkiye.
Gene Barry is an Irish Poet, Art Therapist and a practicing Psychotherapist. He has been published widely both at home and internationally and his poems have been translated into Arabic, Irish and Italian.
Barry is founder of the Blackwater Poetry group that meet weekly in various venues throughout North Cork, Ireland and administers the world famous Facebook Blackwater Poetry Group. As an art therapist using the medium of poetry, Gene has worked in hospitals, primary and secondary schools, NA, Youthreach, with retired people’s groups, AA, asylum seekers and with numerous poetry groups.
He has read in Australia, the US, the Caribbean, Holland, England, Scotland, England, and Belgium and as the guest poem at numerous Irish poetry venues. In 2007 Gene read at the Patrick Kavanagh Celebration in Dublin.
Barry’s chapbook No Family Tree was published by Rebel Poetry in 2008 and in 2013 his collection Unfinished Business was published by Doghouse Books. In 2010 Gene was editor of the anthology Silent Voices, a collection of poems written by asylum seekers living in Ireland. Gene is presently editing his third collection.
He additionally edited the anthologies Remembering the Present in May 2012, Inclusion and The Blue Max Review 2012, 2013 and 2014 editions for Rebel Poetry. Barry is also founder and chairman of the Fermoy International Poetry Festival.
He is presently editing The Day the Mirror Called and Fathers and what must be said and is currently featured in the Poetry Salzburg Review.