Stan Rubin’s Hidden Sequel (2006)

Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 8/9, which was published circa April 2007.


Stan Rubin's – Hidden Sequel_96dpiOn the Ausable Press website page [the webpage is now defunct and the press is part of Copper Canyon Press], “First Book Manuscripts: Free Advice from the Editor,” Chase Twichell describes what she is looking for from a poet and a collection of poems: “they must acknowledge death, because death is the most common denominator.” Stan Sanvel Rubin’s Hidden Sequel (Barrow Street Press) succeeds in Twichell’s request (though with a different publisher) and does more. Rubin acknowledges death, loneliness, & despair, & he wonders about the significance/impact/vitalness of poetry, and he does so with intelligence and passion.

If we look at the poem “Gun,” we get a general feel for the book as a whole:


   Those who have fired upon others
   in anger or despair,
   embracing the slick metal
   of the barrel, sliding
   the index finger
   back with the curved trigger,
   leaning into the kill,

   understand the power
   of cure, the way
   desire becomes
   annihilation, the way
   action obliterates
   the unbreakable strands of pain
   love connects to everything.

We can quickly see the nice balance he gives us between the image and the abstract, and we can see how he pushes both to the limit of evocation. In lines 3-6, we receive the image of a person about to fire a gun. And the image moves down the barrel to the finger and trigger, and that part of the image is somewhat sexual with the word “embracing” and “sliding” and how the image moves, but the sexual image is almost violent. But then line 7, “leaning into the kill,” is stunning and surprising, and it’s this line that yokes the whole image together. It reminds us what a gun can do, it kills. And with “leaning,” the sense of deliberate killing is evoked. Then with the next stanza, the tone changes to something like sympathy or compassion. The first six lines of the second stanza are abstract (in that there are no concrete images and that they are abstracting meaning from the previous image), but we can easily follow the abstractions. The last line does a lot of work. After the violent abstractions comes love, surprisingly. And with that last line he shows the relationship between love and pain. But more, he shows how guns, & war (a motif that is part of this book and that attaches itself into this poem), are what destroy what love tries to make whole.

This brings us to the significance of poetry. If love cannot hold life and the universe intact, what chance does poetry have to succeed?

   Words stop in your throat.
   Metaphors thin and fade.

   They can digest nothing.
   Poems, therefore, fail you,

   sentenced, as you are, to truth.
   Love is what they always

   said it was:
   a cause lost before joining.
                                  (“As They Say,” ll 5-12)

The consideration of whether poetry can matter or does, is brought up often, but no answers result, but the feel is that maybe poetry doesn’t matter but there is something about it: “He knew poetry might lead to hell, / but he loved its beauties” (“Caress,” ll 9-10).

This a just a sense of what Hidden Sequel thinks and feels. This is just a sense of Rubin who has leaped and bounded beyond his previous collection of poems, Five Colors. It’s Rubin with a vision, a vision as from a bard like Yeats. These poems see something . . . important and human.//




Rubin, Stan Sanvel. Hidden Sequel. New York: Barrow Street Press, 2006.//

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