Betty O’Hearn, Review of Philip Dacey’s “Gimme Five”

by Betty O’Hearn

Philip Dacey
Blue Light Press
ISBN: 978-1-4218-8661-9

Philip Dacey’s stunningly written Gimme Five was read three times because I could not get enough of Philip Dacey! This was the first time I read his work and it was engaging from beginning to end. Dacey’s words are crisp and clear, and the imagery makes Gimme Five a book you should want in your collection of contemporary American Poetry. The life of the speaker of these poems entwined in five-lines/five stanzas makes each page breathe on its own. Poets often visit their history via their writing and Dacey articulates an understanding of life from, one might assume, his own pain, joy and sorrow in fifty-five pages that compels the reader to want to know him better.

A favorite stanza from “Request” resonates in my mind:

A big dictionary,
At least the size of the
American Heritage 4th edition.
A paginated coffin,
solid and squared off.

Dacey’s work in Gimme Five is solid and squared off possessing our souls with his verse.
The five by five poems get into and under your skin. This poem format calls to mind the art of sculpting where one begins with seeming formlessness then diversifies to infinite possibilities of order. Dacey is pragmatic and realistic in his approach to initial perception, but his linguistic interpretation of those perceptions imbue them with something much more, with an appreciation of the largeness of moments.

From “The Haircut”~

We wake in the chair
to discover the gods
are cutting our hair again
with their silver shears,
shaping our heads

to their liking. The bright tool
darts around us like lightening,
flashes to show for a second
one loss, then another,
which collect at the center

The barber-gods love
their work, you can tell…

Dacey’s poems frequently dive into the surreal as perception and dreams merge to portray a universe that admits imagination as a necessity of understanding, of relating, and of making meaning. His adroit handling of the real and the surreal demonstrate an enviable innocence, one lost by most of us to the hubbub of time, painting strong pictures that propel readers into his writing, calling to mind their own past experiences often mirrored in his, and redeeming all that we have lost along the way to becoming who we are.

If you miss the beginning,
you miss the end.
The end
is in the beginning
There are signs

at the very start
as to what was the final
Scene will mean.
The deathbed that rides
off into the sunset

(From “Arriving Late For A Movie”)

Such humor is present throughout this work, not just to be silly but to make serious comment on the lives we live, the choices we make, and the consequences of those choices.

An email from Mr. Dacey sums up this review.

“Don Marquis said that publishing a book of poems is like dropping a feather into the Grand Canyon and waiting for an echo. Well, I appreciate the echo from your direction.”

Philip Dacey will echo as you read Gimme Five. The words will dance in your head, go out like a tide, only to return and inch you further along. These are words that will keep you reading contemporary poetry and will never leave your soul.

2 thoughts on “Betty O’Hearn, Review of Philip Dacey’s “Gimme Five”

  1. I really like the way you wrote this review, Betty. It makes me want to go out and grab a copy of his book. That’s the point, I guess.

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