IN THE DARK WITH MARC ZEGANS: A Reading of Boys in The Woods

I could begin any thoughts about Marc Zegans Boys in Woods with the experience of plunging into sound, a near trademark pull into a world where familiar words like donuts from Price Chopper’s or the rip-stop nylon of a tent, twist until they are as strange as the unfamiliar Chibougamau in the book's first poem, “Plattsburgh,” and suspecting he's delighting when I find myself plunged again into a place called Bish Bash in the final poem Taconic, and suddenly can't remember the meaning of cascade; or I could get to the seeming heart of it as I untangle the difference between the carefully constructed bullying of a carefully constructed boy in “Perch,” where the coming of an unnecessary, violent age hangs at the end of fishing line, and the far more frightening mob of bullies in “Shorts,” pulling and tearing and chasing me toward my own memories but unable to match the unspeakable terror of children upon children in world without rules, adults, or a means for escape. I could just rest in the beautiful secret he found in the Taconic's waters, or the moment in Plattsburgh’s camping trip which foreshadows the all, that moment "when only one and I remained" to witness the wonders in the northern sky; I could just fall into the soft layers of Peg Simone's echoey, thrilling composition which accompanies the coda to the 5 poem book, so lovely and fun that I can forget those lyrics' anger, the adult's wish to be gone from it all, from "just another shit New England town," the promise to whisk me away with his humor and a bravado not so different from the third grader with a pack of Marlboro’s in Perch. But any of this would be to miss what's enormous and simple in this slim volume of story-poems. Zegans shows his hand, hand in hand with his son on a dark walk in the woods. "How dark?" He asks the boy in “Walk.” Dark enough that the technical prowess of the other poems slips away, and form still matching moment I find all that I need to survive childhood and adulthood here; I accept what I already know, that the line between man and boy which permeates this little book, dedicated to his own son, dissolves, because nothing is greater in darkness than love.

~ Susannah Melone, Actor, Poet, Playwright—Guilding the Lily



poems by michael estabrook

Green Zone Editions
Copyright © Michael Estabrook
softbound, no price given

A chapbook review by zvi a. sesling

THE POEM IN THE MIDDLE OF MICHAEL ESTABROOK’S NEW POETRY CHAPBOOK MADE ME LAUGH when it should not have, which is a positive indicator of his poetry.

The Boston Strangler

I’m at my desk at work
finishing up a poem about frogs
(everything in my life ends up
in a poem it’s a sad yes
but what can you do?)
when one of my co-workers
sticks his shiny bald head
into my office and says
“hey I heard this great joke
on TV last night about a frog…”
of course I’m stunned by the coincidence
but can’t say anything about it
because nobody at work knows
I’m a poet when I’m not at work
like the Boston Strangler was a strangler
when he wasn’t driving a cab

I get how Estabrook thinks. Some of these poems are nostalgic and other humorous. Each is based on something in his experience. The poem “Flashback” for example begins with a young engineer explaining something that reminds Estabrook of his father in a kind, warm way, while in “Bigfoot” there are a dozen other names for the legendary character and Estabrook writes from Bigfoot’s perspective.

Then there is his poem “Peter Sellers” which speaks for itself:

When I woke this morning
I was surprised to see how much
my wife looked like Peter Sellers.
Maybe it was the way her nose
came out from her face
or the way her hair lay flat against
the side of her head or maybe
it was because the light
was so dim. I’m not certain
but I was worried because I know
peter Sellers is dead.

Okay I’m not supposed to laugh at this one either, but couldn’t help myself because
if anything, Michael Estabrook has a terrific sense of humor which he is able, unlike
many poets, to make leap off the page and slap you silly.

He has also written one about himself, his grandchildren, earlobes, feeding ducks, eating lobster rolls and a number of other subjects any reader can breeze through and enjoy – hopefully as much as I did





poems by marc zegans

Pelekinesis Press • 2015 •  136 pages, paperback. ISBN: 978-938349-29-4  $22.95

A chapbook review by carol l. skolnick, santa cruz, ca

Poet Marc Zegans Chronicles Life’s Tempests with
Skill, Grace and Humor

Is the job of today’s poet to observe brilliantly and comment socially in either stark prose, pretty poesy or hip-hop? To honor the battle and the beloved, or to make sense of the past? To leave you with indelible images as no one else has word-painted them before? In The Underwater Typewriter—Bay Area poet Marc Zegans’ optimistic and ambitious new collection—he does all of the above while eschewing fealty to any of it, without a trace of self-consciousness or self-importance.  

Zegans’ title poem concerns the siren song that compels writers to dive deep and tell their stories; but thematically, the poems chosen for The Underwater Typewriter reveal an authentic and good-humored perspective on near-drownings. The collection is a lyrical chronicle and how-to of salvaging valuables from the murk, honoring and saying goodbye to that which cannot be recovered whole, living well and meaningfully in spite of lost loves, youthful health, family mythologies and cultural innocence. It is also a mature perspective, as deliverable only by one who has lived long enough to know first-hand the pressure point of a manual keyboard or the satisfying clunk of a hard return.

“The times demand/Williams/not Whitman,” says Zegans who in “P(un)k Poets: Too Fucked to Drink” writes about events that turned the tide of America and with it, the changes in us: no longer willing to Howl like Ginsberg (or the Sex Pistols) at the injustices, but rather go post-hipster, cease posturing and take action, or at least get real.

And yet with humor and ironic self-awareness, he moves freely in this poem between a Ginsberg-like (but somehow slam-cadenced) reportage of seeing a generation screwed over by madness:

But I saw the news crews
Spilling rage, as spilt Milk

Mayor of Castro

And de-centered Moscone
Were shoved aside, TV slap
at gay pride…

…to the economy of language that, as William Carlos Williams wrote, says it in “no ideas but in things.”

bent light
facet play


Typically Zegans, like Williams, does not waste words, using metaphors that feel immediate, such as “She kills truth as indelicate razor” (“Broken Sandwiches”), or condensing a romantic history into a pithy description of an undergarment tossed in passion and left behind by a lover who may or may not return for it.

But Zegans—well-known as a spoken-word artist on both coasts—has a visual sensibility as well, and includes here works that are constructions meant to be seen in print, such as the poem “Out”—a playful work that begins tersely confessional—“I suppose I am out now/out of excuses, out of art,/out of contrivance, out.”—and concludes with a wide philosophical wave that sums up the entire collection:

And there is a strange justice in it all, feeling it all and not letting it condition me in any way, learning to hold on as best
I can to nothing, and that, refusing to cling, staying out, trapezing off the side of a small boat on hard tack in high wind, is the hardest thing of all, and it’s fucking wonderful, and now that I am out I hope that I never forget it, and that by example I teach it to my boy
as I was never taught, and that he savors being out, struggles never to enter the hollow ring, and lives rich and full every day of his life.

Those of us who make it back to shore in midlife, covered in barnacles and gasping for breath, have stories to tell. Marc Zegans tells his, not like some ancient mariner, but as one with a healthy respect for stormy seas, witty and smart and happy to have found his land legs.