By Linda Rijel
The very title of this collection of free verse, Appetites, by Alexander Dickow, brings to mind starvation, hedonism, sin and longing. In this book I found the word to be encompassing of the very nature and mystery of being human: our appetites which shape us individually, our sense of them and their interaction with us and the world.
Dickow’s affable words are deftly braised into a melange of the momentary and lasting observations of a fully formed man: father, husband, son, and teacher. Leonard Cohen was the last poet to express such enjoyment and euphoric solemnity at the many facets of life’s simplicity.
Appetites opens with the tasty amuse bouche “Wonder is the perfect drunkard.” Instantly I was at Bryce Canyon, gawping at incomprehensible majesty, tipsy on nephew hugs, and intoxicated by an LA sunset.
Dickow elevates “ordinary” words in such a manner as to stoke one’s appetites from the embers in a truly visceral way. The mouth waters over Cabernet, “Pungent impish pinwheels sway the palate.” In a few small lines, he taps the sommelier’s deepest desire to charmingly impart the true nature of a wine with mere speech.
Cheeks flush and heart quickens as one devours the worded Rembrandt of humanity with its needs, desires, and silly habits. “No louder than a scent” stirs the senses, vividly teasing out memories and relaxing the soul.
The odd hilarity of being human is brought to us as Dickow pokes at us in “To A Politian,” a florid monologue that would be spat out while watching CNN. Laughter prances out of my word drunk mouth as “Airlines” tells us where “all carrion items” shall be placed.
The kaleidoscope of Appetites turns and I’m within the splendor of Nature: wind, snow, and snapshot memories of childhood gently alluded to as I recall gently curling bugs as I fall asleep.
Our poet observer plunges into hunger for the intangibles of faith and love while not missing the carnality of those particular appetites that add the saffron to life; their dignity and glory are laid plainly by a man clearly savoring the meat and marrow of human experience.
After Sappho (for Annie) is a vine ripened celebration of love.
“Sometimes as I draw near of you
I am whole fragile and strong
As on the first day.”
Appetites ends with two short poems that can rightly be called a grande finale. The first, a sincere prayer from a soul hungering after the Creator and Emuna, a hymn to “a hand woven in two.”
Dickow rouses the appetites and enhances perception of the world around as if one has taken drugs. He moves through language, an experienced adult, while maintaining the nearly greedy and unbridled joy of a ten year old with an XBox. The reader is drawn into Wonderland and, having fallen down the rabbit hole, finds Wonderland to be the true world of natural reality so often missed when one has gorged on melancholic mundanity.
Dickow’s latest offering is magic of the first order, a book that may be both devoured in a sitting or lingered over like very old Scotch while stalling the end of an electric first date.
“How is it we are all so beautifully swindled.”
How indeed, sir, how indeed.
For more information about Alexander Dickow, please visit www.alexdickow.net