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Heaven, Earth, Love, & Humor Grow in Larry Goodell's Garden of Verse by Carl Hertel

Here On Earth by Larry Goodell   -   La Alameda Press, $12.00

When I picked up my copy of Larry Goodcll's Here On Earth at the Collected Works in Santa Fe it seemed like solstice time when light returns and we are all back above ground – here on earth. And so it was. Goodell is a word gardener. He plants seeds, he mulches, he fertilizes, he irrigates, he prunes, he prays, and he harvests in his poems very much as he does in his legendary garden plot in Placitas. These 59 sonnets in very free form are no formal garden or factory farm. They are like the wilderness at times, or Fukuoka s famous gardens in Japan that are never tilled or weeded, planted with a wild diversity of fruits, vegetables, and grasses along with a cadre of chickens, worms, bugs, and birds to keep them company – and, says Fukuoka, healthy and natural.

The cover photo by Lenore Goodell for Here On Earth gives us a clue about what is to come. The landscape through a culvert. Not the view we would expect. Yet, beguiling and provocative. Goodell's sonnets cover that landscape, dealing with just about everything in sight here on earth. In several of the sonnets he engages the sixties, a time he seems to savor for its camaraderie and community. For example, in "Honest, Oh Boy," dedicated to former Placitas poet-in-residence Bob Creeley, he writes: "... the architecture of your presence/Is an old friend and a glimpse of when/We were around the kitchen table far into the night." This was doubtless a formative period for Goodell in developing his passion for plants and poetry. He also writes of other poet friends such as Nathaniel Tarn and Janet Rodney, Drummond Hadley, and Paul Blackburn, to name a few. Friendship, community and nostalgia are frequent flowers in this garden of poetry.


Goodell also frequently writes of family. These are the sensuous, earthy, heartfelt expressions of a man in love. The sonnet has often been a vehicle for expressions of love. In Sonetto, which means a little song with 14 lines, typically in, as Webster says, "five-foot iambics rhyming according to a prescribed scheme." Goodell adopts the 14 lines, but cultivates the rest of the form like Fukuoka's wild natural gardens. He even has a sonnet giving parental advice,

"Down the Road of Life," in which he speaks as any father, saying "Pacing out the time when you come to your senses/ And what is near becomes most dear & avoid/ the avenues of fear." What drives Goodell is the metaphor of growth, that is, the seed to plant to bloom to fruit to dying and decay. Simply put, he writes about all life. Tides such as "Garden," "Strawberries," "Compost," "Las Huertas," and "Golden Shadows of the Flowers" attest to this.

In addition, Goodell frequently employs humor to fertilize his garden of poems. His humor is sometimes a bit diabolical, but always enlivening. For example, in "On Too Long": "To the trees, the breeze, the bees, within the seven seas/the ease with which I eat my cheese/the nuclear freeze, the teas of the English/the tragic disease that cheats you, fleas— " Yes, a language poet too. These are poems to be read out loud and not cogitated upon too much: "...the gallumphing along to please the ear...." is often what it's all about, as he says in "On Too Long." Nor are these easy poems. Sometimes you feel as if you are listening to parts of the soundtrack from the movie Shine. However, as noted above, in Goodcll's movie his quick jump cuts lead us to a montage of feelings, images, experiences, ideas, and reveries that form a lush garden of poetry.


I came to wear my burtons.
But a psychologist said that would be worshipping Freud. 
Now Jung said he was a very old man. 
A fraud, actually.
They got into a fight & knocked me down.
I'm a center for Angels.
Life is a screw, a nail said to me.
A hammer replied, it's all in your head.
Sing, you with wings, & button your coat.
The more I write, the younger I get.
The more I paint, the older I get.
The more I create artificial fruit,
the wealthier I get.
That's why I'm so heavy, and wear a light suit. 

– Larry Goodell                                                                                                                                                                  Review by Carl Hertel from the Sandoval Arts, February 1997 issue

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