Book Review: Shoot the Messenger by John Dorsey

I’ve been reading John Dorsey for nearly a decade and have had the privilege of seeing this poet perform many times in Toledo, Ohio. I’ve been haunted by his words—stories of ghosts, of friends, of towns—and often wondered what it must feel like to be loved by John Dorsey.

In the Shoot the Messenger’s first poem, “The Alligator Man”, he writes, “the sun is just one of a thousand knick knacks / that gets drowned out by the pulse of your love” and “a marriage that can no longer walk / on water / gets frozen in time”.

Cover photograph, “You and Me and Me and You,” digital image from Polaroid photo, 2012 by Greg Edmondson

Reading Dorsey’s poetry is like receiving a love letter from the world, and being affirmed that the world is an apologetic and welcoming place to live. Each poem feels so personal, as if I shouldn’t be allowed in on the idiosyncratic relationship between the poet and his subject. This is what also makes the poetry ring true on a universal level because each piece is so specific that they become undeniably relatable.

What makes this publication by Red Flag Poetry doubly enjoyable is the accompanying art by Greg Edmondson. Using a variety of mediums in the collection, Edmondson evokes a sublime sentimentality that transcends human nature into a more objective and abstract periphery.

The sum of the poetry and the art is a dadaist juxtaposition, a fusion of the surreal and the microscopic truths of everyday life. In pairings such as Dorsey’s poem “County Route 705” with Edmondson’s color pencil and collage “Perilous Journey”, the existentialism becomes more prevalent, accentuating the aesthetic of both the poetry and the artwork.

June 24, 2014:  Artwork of Greg Edmondson. (Photo: Danny Reise)
“Perilous Journey,” color pencil and collage on paper, 30″ x 22″, 2015 by Greg Edomndson

County Route 705

is full of ghost stories

faded yearbook photos
of dreams that died
on loose gravel

the sun shining
on our failures

just hanging there
like a rusty hubcap
nailed to the cross.

                           by John Dorsey




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Nathan Elias writes out of Los Angeles, CA where he is working on his MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on Fiction at Antioch University. He serves as Co-Lead Art & Flash Prose Editor at Lunch Ticket. His work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, Hobart, Birdville Magazine, Literary Orphans, Red Fez, and is forthcoming in The Blotter Magazine. In 2015 his short film "The Chest" premiered at Cannes Film Festival.