Work Title: Broken Hallelujahs
Work Author(s): Sean Thomas Dougherty
Reviewer: Erica Wright
In his 2002/2003 Frost Medal acceptance speech, Lawrence Ferlinghetti described three types of poetry, the last and most important being standing poetry, "the poetry of commitment, often great, often dreadful." Sean Thomas Dougherty is a standing poet. He tackles socially aware subjects and draws his inspiration, not from the literary canon, but from music and spoken word. In his latest collection, Broken Hallelujahs, Dougherty demonstrates that he is a master of momentum. He does not pause to catch his breath and thus catches his readers right along with him. The opening poem, "The Sentence," announces the poet's belief in the power of language: "The sentence is a chanteuse, unretired, stirring with a strong sigh, a suffering sparrow, outside a gray downtown Nativity scene, this last sentence: a small, winged thing rising---" The sentence, the poem, flies off the page. It is not a trick, but rather language's possibility to change and perhaps to promote change.
Broken Hallelujahs is the 104th book to be published in BOA Editions' American Poets Continuum Series. Despite the distinguished company he joins, Dougherty seems to prefer musicians to poets, for example, Biggie Smalls and Leonard Cohen to Marianne Moore and Robert Lowell. In "Call Out," he asks, "Who donned Robert Lowell's glasses and forgot how to shake one's assets?" It is an ironic question considering the similarities between Broken Hallelujahs and Lowell's Life Studies. (Most...