Reverie’s Ilk: Collected Prose Poems by Karl Elder

Reviewed by Brad Weller

This adult collection of prose poetry from Karl Elder is a wonderfully introspective experience. The wide range of tone and length were refreshing, since the poems’ lengths varied from a sentence to three pages long. Some poems were like delectable candy while others were more akin to staring at your reflection in a murky soup. The variety truly made it enjoyable to me. 

The style of poetry within this collection is best described as prose poems, like it says on the cover. Most of them are in paragraph form and have contemporary language (the only one that doesn’t is “Ye Shall Brush Your Teeth”). The wide variety of subjects includes childhood, relationships, self-identity, the American ideal, religion, and morbid fascinations.

One of my favorite poems in the collection, “Jade Plant,” uses imagery to describe the plant as:

 “…green with envy, hundreds of fat, dumb tongues.” 

There are several other poems that continue this mocking tone. On the other end of the spectrum, there is “Ye Shall Brush Your Teeth,” which has a lot of fun wordplay like:

“You are going to a party where time is the host. You shall carry a time piece because that’s the smart thing to take to time’s house. Little can you know, however—through this fortune you have bought, and for which you shall want your money back, may provide you with an inkling—just how austere, how fickle, time can be with his sickle stored behind the front door or the other scythe leaning in the kitchen on the way out back.”

In contrast, our poetic plate is balanced with darker pieces like “Dream: Killer Babies,” which starts with:

“I am their executioner. I wear a diving mask instead of a hood, which affords me the clearest possible view of the effects of my work. I handle them with the same lack of remorse they show their victims.”

This collection creates a full meal of diverse poetry. You can stuff it all in one hour or savor it over a month, gradually working through each of the forty-six poems. However you choose, be warned–the digestion of these poems may take a while.

Brad Weller is a graduating senior from Carroll University with a double major in theatre arts and musical theatre. While trying to find a use for his love of theatre during the pandemic, he has picked up a camera and is currently pursuing a career in videography.

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