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August 27, 2015 / barton smock

review for Brian James Dawson’s ‘The War On Unicorns’ (Words Dance Publishing, August 2015)

The War On Unicorns
by Brian James Dawson
Words Dance Publishing, August 2015


review by Barton Smock

Brian James Dawson is a poet I’ve admired for some time. I lucked into his work, years ago, on Myspace; days from which I can pull little save for some poets were there trying very hard to be seen being alone. Because so many writers stop, right? They kiss Jesus behind the ear and say I’m off and my sins are coming with me. Or they get some small job narrating death’s cameo. But there was this line, there, that I didn’t draw a line through, uttered by Dawson, that unfolded then and now like this: loving the dying is like tattooing the water. It made me smoke. It made me quit smoking. It made me want to give a backstory to something that didn’t exist yet. And here I have this work, this The War On Unicorns, with its parts 1 through 40, which from its opening lines- “The dog barks constantly. Shining men in / riot gear accept flowers.” – enters the conflicting imaginations of the local and the empyreal. The book itself is a halcyonian triumph. Lines, of course, abound. “A paper airplane flies towards a furnace”(2). “A remade red dress / hangs lugubriously on a wooden rack / in a closet left over from / the Mormon migration”(5). But I’ve said too much of what it merely says. It doesn’t build, it contains, it is house. Inside, there is map enough to distract the bombings. At one point, Dawson directs us to “Remember Tehran.” It is not jarring, it is just the end of a poem. Dawson is a student of history but teaches the sane myth.

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