Poets are allowed to make lists to tell us their “Story So Far,” as long as it’s an interesting list. David Allen’s is and thus, so are his poems—a good life that makes a good read. American poets, in other countries, are sometimes chided for taking even little details from their lives and turning them into poetry. That’s a large part of the art that David Allen has mastered—solidly, happily in the American tradition.
Allen is not averse to autobiography, not needing that mask of fiction behind which so many artists hide. Of course that is true in his title poem which catalogs his personal journey. It is most poignant in poems such as “Requiem for My Father,” which recites a litany of pain and in so doing purges the past, leaving a “demon-less Dad.” He writes to atone for the fact that “I Never Wrote a Poem About My Mother,” creating a poem even more powerful because it celebrates a life that was so often bullied into a position of powerlessness.
Allen’s poems are a often a plain song in performance of a homey philosophy. For those who search for god, “In the Country” asks “if god/ is afraid of the dark.” In “No Sense,” we contemplate a god who “is either/ absent minded,/ a practical joker,/ or a sadist.” His “Meaning” is something you can “put…in your pocket…go off whistling/ down the street.”
“Anticipation,” delights us with music “like a cool chill on a steaming/ day of city summer stranger streets.” “Nightmares,” turns philosophy into a song, something Allen may have learned from his father who “plays the mandolin/ when life begins to close him in.” Allen even has moments one could liken to Emily Dickinson, as in “Underneath.”
He explains his modus operandi in “Running” noting how writing has been his refuge and salvation even as “book walls crumbled/ and, crippled, I learned to crawl.” Indeed, he’s gone much further than that humble admission in the Story So Far. He puts a well-earned, positive slant on his accomplishments in “Seesaw Sensations,” exclaiming “Ah, so this is living.” Hooray for David Allen’s courage, creativity and poetry!