Read. Think. Write.
For some, writing is a chore and reading anything but a pleasant pursuit. Fortunately, there are vastly more people in the world looking to encounter a new, fresh story or simply revel in the recalled experiences of someone else. It provokes ones own memories and deep feelings for a person, place, or time forgotten allowing readers to more deeply live in their present. Readers of this ilk tend to adore writers like Doug Snelson, an author who has made writing occasional poems a daily practice. In Snelson’s new collection Laughter Includes the Word, readers are treated to a myriad of lyrics composed in the moment and taking as their subject the mundane yet sly experience of everyday living.
These poems cover more than fifty years of Snelson’s life experience. It is a collection of verse giving not so much a glimpse into the mind of the poet but a wide, clear window into one’s thought process. And year Snelson is able to compose gentle verse that’s easily accessible to even the most novice of poetry readers yet not so ordinary as to not earn admiration from the more academic of poetry readers.
Poetry of the everyday can often fall into the trap of being too personal. They can be poems overloaded with intimate totems never explained or relational histories never explored but mistakenly taken for granted. Fortunately, Laughter Includes the Word avoids this, never snagging the readers on unknown persons, meaningless micro-history, or maudlin reminisce.
A pleasant quirk of this collection is the inclusion of Snelson’s actual handwritten drafts of the poems as well as those composed on an Olivetti-Underwood typewriter. It gives each lyric a very present feel making the sentiment at once forgettable (since many of the pieces of paper Snelson used were receipts or napkins, soon to be trash) and urgent (this was a thought that had to be expressed, transcribed). We can see this in the poem ‘lotsam flotsam,’ a poem written while awaiting the subway and ruminating on trash:
lotsam flotsam stuff on shoreswishing, swashing, salty floor
flashing, scrashing to the corebobbing, bleating, “help me, more!”
feasting, fretting of the loredolphin dazing to the roar
of flotsy stuff that suffocatesof slooty stuff that hesitates
disintegrates from sight and feelhow could the ocean make appeal
to all of us
oh flotsy junkand lotsam largethe worst has sunkjust like a barge
of oily spongetsunami mommyadding grunge
i so do wishif I were fish
lotsam flotsam I would expunge
Is each poem worth writing? Hardly the right question. Rather, each poem pushed its way through Snelson’s consciousness and demanded to bloom. We read this poems knowing they’ve been cultivated but still retain their rawness making for a unique reading experience. We experience poems from over five decades, we see a man grow, change, and yet in many ways stay the same. Laughter Includes the Word is an inspirational collection of poetry certainly, but it’s strength comes in the pleasure it grants. That pleasure arises in allowing everyday actions and objects to be foregrounded in plain language letting the poet-speaker and reader a moment to revelry.