Break Out

Break Out

ISBN: 978-1-7325182-1-6; 64 pages; $24.95

Publication Date: October 15th, 2020

In his latest collection of forty-one new poems, Break Out, poet Eric Greinke demonstrates his comfort with the wide variety of poetic modalities and divergent compositional approaches for which he is known. Thematically, the collection is structured to maximize a readers mental flexibility and emotional empathy through alternative perspectives presented in the poems. The dominant theme of the book is the need of all sentient beings to escape from the many kinds of chains and prisons that capture them. Hailed by Charles Reznikoff as “the best poet of his generation”, at 72 years old Greinke continues to write poems that evoke our common human experiences in search of universal truths.The first, middle, and last poems (In Tree Light, Love Match, and From Mirror To You) are surrealistic lyric poems inspired respectively by French poets Yves Bonnefoy, Andre Breton and Claire Malroux. A series of couplet-based, ghazal-like, free-associative responses to the morning news on television (i.e. Monkey Time, Origins of Alchemy, and Break Out) are interwoven with poems written from the perspective of fish, birds and animals (i.e. Hunger, Bluegill Apocalypse, Waves, The Unseen, Trash) placed amid a core of topical objectivistic docu-poems inspired by Associated Press articles that address human rights in the context of social problems, such as human trafficking (i.e. Little Doll, The Trap, The Price), homelessness (i.e. The Cold, Locked Out), road rage (On The Road), racism (The Word), gang violence (The Dead), sexual abuse (The Secret), drug addiction (Unforgiven), sanctuary for illegal immigrants (Standing Room Only), mass shootings (No Cover) and hunger (Hunger Everywhere). Throw in a few surprises, (i.e. an acrostic imitation of Apollinire or the sardonic social cultural observations of Intensities In Ten Cities), and you have poetry that takes you for a ride, both inside and out.  

“Greinke is a spacious poet of Soul.  There is an easy flow, an unstrained lucidity, a surreal exuberance about his poetry. The marvel of Greinke is the ‘open window’ he has sustained throughout a long career of letters. Let us revere this great man of letters in lionlike Age; he gives us so much.” 
      – Charles Thompson, Various Artists (UK)  

“Eric Greinke carves an eclectic niche; like snowflakes, no two poems are exactly alike. He is at ease in many genres, which reside comfortably alongside each other—from poetry of the marvelous in the fine tradition of Rimbaud and Neruda, to the more traditional poems of Robert Frost.  It is clear that the lovely universal landscape is where he chooses to spend most of his leisure hours.”
            ‑ Cindy Hochman, The Pedestal Magazine  

“Eric Greinke’s poems, like messages in a bottle, found after so many years of being afloat, are the experiences of being within, the experiences of being in nature.  Each poem is a cathedral of actuality, of thought, of inspiration. He takes our hand and shows us what we have forgotten to look at.”
         – Irene Koronas, Boston Area Poetry Scene  

“There is a Blakeian energy to these poems that pulses through the shorter ones in particular – in true Beat tradition, the senses are rhapsodic even at their most cataclysmic. The work has wide geographic reach.”                        ‑Aileen La Tourette, The Journal (UK)  

Achieving lyricism in free verse narrative poems is like walking a tightrope. The poet can fall into lines full of beautiful language and music and lose the story, leaving the reader wondering what that poem was all about. Or the poet can focus so heavily on the narrative that the reader wonders why the poem wasn’t written as a short story or bit of creative nonfiction. Eric Greinke, in his new collection called Break Out, walks that tightrope with confidence, making poems that engage as strongly as any well written short story while retaining rhythm, music, and surprising language.
“In this volume of forty-one poems, most pieces are solidly narrative with a clear plotline, occasional dialogue, detail that brings a vivid picture of time and place, and an ending that usually surprises and sometimes shocks the reader. But Mr. Greinke never forgets the elements that create poetry. Read aloud and listen to the rhythms in the opening lines of “A Human Chain”:
A farmer from Georgia & his wife
were on the beach at Panama City
celebrating their anniversary,
when they saw a group gathering
on the sand beside the pier,

“The insistent rhythm is sustained through the entire poem, pushing the narrative of a life-saving event. When we reach the final lines, after a happy resolution, we read

Like ants, they had touched
that place deep inside
where survival begins & ends.
“This unexpected conclusion is more than an odd comparison. It might also be a philosophical question, a thought that may cause the reader to stop, think, then go back to reconsider the whole well-crafted poem.
“Some of the poems in this collection are about issues we see in the news; homeless people, domestic violence, child abuse, racism, and more. But the poems are always driven by individual human stories, never pronouncements, or sloganeering. Each story is honest, with the poet’s real reaction delivered in a way that shows his close attention and emotional involvement.

“But not all the poems in the collection are issue-based. There is a touching love poem called “Love Match” which is full of wild connections listed in a litany of lines that end with these four;
My wife with her wildflower eyes
My wife with wet eyes for prisoners
My wife with wooden eyes ready to chop
& eyes of calm water, raked earth, fire and wind
“And there are poems that are not easily categorized. Intensities “In Ten Cities” is a ten part work, each part made up of ten lines. The author revisits specific memories of each place, weaving a few details that create a broad, powerful impression. While the impression of each city may seem familiar, the poet never slips into any typical travel writing clichés.
“There are several poems made up of couplets that seem odd at first reading. The titular poem of this collection is nearly surreal;

Telescopic microorganisms contort
in disproportionate macrospasms,
their ecstatic mutations subsonic.
Masochists pass out mass market snacks.
“Yet, the sound, humor, and imagery make the poem as fun to read as it is difficult to figure out. An anti-war poem called “That’s Entertainment” uses strong realism to make its point as it begins;
Bloody soldiers lie like sticks
On a hurricane beach
Bionic limbs replace shot off
Branches, grotesque woodpiles
“And the poem concludes with;
A militia of monkeys reigns
Over the temporarily insane drains
We’re still marching in perfect order
Into the red-stained, funeral smog

“Mr. Greinke’s poems are always interesting and original. They are also bolstered by scrupulous attention to craft. And this poet has the ability to keep a reader fully engaged through an eclectic, wide-ranging collection that is, for me, one I will return to again and again. This is a book worthy of space on your shelves.

-James Bourey, The Broadkill Review  

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