Thursday, November 30, 2006



The Obedient Door by Sean Tumoana Finney
(Meritage Press, San Francisco & St. Helena, 2005)

It is difficult when reviewing a book to ensure you approach it as independent of any others that you may review. Sometimes that can be remarkably easy, at others one struggles to find something new. Sean Finney’s The Obedient Door is one of the latter. This does not make it a bad book. The writing is strong, it is well presented and enjoyable to read, but then so are so many other collections out there. The back blurb by John Ashbery calls Finney’s book “cheerfully slipshod”, and that is what they are. However, this underestimates Finney’s affinity with words:

To blink at someone
with those eyes.
Posture cannot save you.
It’s egregious love
that waves like new boots.
Answer me by being
a prostitute. I’ll stay still
while you roll in spaghetti
--from “Hawaii Fragments”

Subtle words emphasize simple lines ‘with those eyes’ (italics mine) changes a dull line to one full of meaning. What is it about the eyes? Whose eyes? Are they merely beautiful or do the eyes reveal a depth of emotion? That line would fill an entire afternoon’s lecture on modern poetry and language!

Finney’s poems possess an energy that bounces the reader all over the world, Hawaii, China, Egypt, Rome and there are poems we associate with place we have been, the readers. He has found a way to reach a broad audience. Unfortunately, this energy heightens the lack of difference this book possesses. If there weren’t so many mediocre books covering a broad range of topics as The Obedient Door does, it may have had a change to get a better and more appreciative audience. As it is, there is little to set it apart. His fans will read it, but I doubt it will reach many people unfamiliar with his work, which is a crying shame. It is a good book and it deserves better.

On the circus floor,
I miss you, jug of wine.
On the banks
no expensive bridges
a nudge to find cracks free of needles
sententious flat appraisal.
--from “Rome Again”

Why I have ended with this quote I’m not sure. Perhaps it is because it sums up for me the bleakness of an opportunity lost. Editors and publishers need to be careful what they put in our bookstores -- it is too easy for little gems like The Obedient Door to be passed over. This is Finney’s first collection. I look forward to his next one.


Fionna Doney Simmonds has published many reviews of poetry both in print and on the net. Formerly the Poetry Editor for feminist literary ezine, she has recently left that position in order to concentrate more on her writing. Living in the beautiful English county town of Shrewsbury, Fionna continues to draw inspiration from all around her and look for more ways in which to develop a wider appreciation of poetry in herself and others.


At 5:04 PM, Blogger EILEEN said...

Another view is presented by Laurel Johnson in GR Issue #1 at:


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