One Tree Bridge

by Dennis Greene

$15 US
Chapbook - 23 poemsChapbooks.html

Table of Contents


Birth Song

Preparing the Way

These my words...

Job

Counting the Swans

Who’s there

Captain Cook

All Quiet

Kings Park (Anzac Day)

Rope

A rhyme for the nursery perhaps . . .

Phoenix

Kuta

Antarctica

Tunnel

Here be dragons

The Road Menders

The stalling of birds observed at close quarters

Galapagos

Love what you’ve done with the place

Painting "Dr Gachet"

One Tree Bridge

Jerusalem! Jerusalem!

About the author:

Dennis Greene was born in England in 1949, but raised in what is now Zimbabwe.  He traveled extensively before settling in Western Australia in 1983.  He has been, at various times (and among other things) a soldier, a busker, a salesman, a meteorological observer, and was working in retail store management when he was diagnosed, in 1987 at the age of 37, with young onset Parkinson’s disease.  He retired in 1994, since when he has been able to devote more time to his writing.  He is married with two adult daughters.


He has performed his work at poetry readings and on television and radio.  It has been published in Westerly; Unfamiliar Tides (2002 Newcastle Poetry Prize Anthology); Empowa (Emerging Poets WA) Issues 1 & 2; Inside Out; Blast Magazine; the Word is Out, and in Voices from the Parking Lot, an anthology of poetry and prose which he edited for the Parkinson Alliance of Princeton, NJ.


His work has also been published on numerous internet sites, including Poetic Voices, Oracular Tree, Comrades, Wordspace, Ironwood, Mipo, SCR, and Chimera. For several years he was the assistant editor of Poetry Downunder, a website, and then the co-editor of the website, Numbat.


From the author:

Writing poetry enables me to focus on creativity.  It helps me meet and learn from other writers, near and far.  I can’t think of anything better.


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From the publisher:

My interest in Dennis Greene’s writing began in 2007 when I discovered a few pieces of his work on the internet.  Over time, with much study, and through personal contemplation, my interest has grown into deep admiration, not only for the man, but for the skill he exhibits as a writer, poet, and social commentator whenever he puts pen to paper.  Whether reflecting on the personal aspects of human struggle, the relationships between individuals, or the implications of conflict on future generations, with uncanny insight and astute perception, Dennis possesses the ability to perceive the truth in each encounter and the significance each event holds for an individual.


Dennis' first publication with our press came as the Editor's Choice of the debut issue of Touch: The Journal of Healing with "A Terrible Beauty," his essay on Parkinson's Disease and "In passing," his poem which follows the death of a loved one.   With "A Terrible Beauty," I was deeply moved by his personal accounting of how this affliction affects both an individual who receives this diagnosis and the people who surround and support him.  The essay could have easily devolved into pathos, but true to his strength of character, Dennis chose to take the high road, revealing instead the gains which were possible without downplaying any of the devastating details.  "In passing" introduced me to his mastery of language and how in the right hands, language, blended with the softened use of imagery, can make a reader a participant in a poem.  Though neither of these pieces are included here, I recommend that you discover them for yourself.


With this first print collection of Dennis Greene's work, One Tree Bridge reveals the individual, social, and political struggles of mankind through the exploration of events and people from history, the personalization of characters from literature, and the analysis of human interaction.  They are a reflection on life and begin with the contemplation of one’s own birth.  With the wisdom of a sage philosopher, the tone of the poem sets the stage for what is to follow and offers the reader a glimpse of the depth of work that comes from this poet and author.


As the collection progresses, we find poems that contemplate the many possible encounters a person might experience and the lessons each encounter may have offered.  We also gain new perspective on historical events from poems which recount major and minor conflicts and accomplishments, and how far-reaching the actions of an individual can be.  As layers of humanity are peeled away, we learn about ourselves more than the characters because of how we respond to and are moved by their stories.


The ending poems offer us the knowledge an individual might gain over a lifetime, the realization that we are all temporary inhabitants of this planet, the understanding that a life is not as much defined by its accomplishments as it is by the exploration of what it is to be human, and a greater understanding of the frailty of life.


Much ink could be spent analyzing and critiquing Dennis' work, but I fear I would never do justice to the artistry of his words.  This is something I leave to you, the reader to explore as you sample and savor the intricacies and subtleties of each of the poems this collection has to offer.


O.P.W. Fredericks, Editor


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From the critics:

I have long been a fan of Dennis Greene’s poetry, and some of the poems in One Tree Bridge abide with me as favourites in my reading.  Intelligent, assured and always meticulously crafted, his poetry, as this variegated selection reveals, can frequently be marvellous.  A number of these poems, most obviously ‘Who’s there’ and ‘Tunnel’, would be at home in any poetry anthology.  I would also nominate ‘Galapagos’ and the moving ‘Antarctica’.


Unlike numerous Australian poets, who forge a poetic identity via the land and landscape surrounding them, Greene, though poetically in tune with his surroundings (One Tree Bridge; Kings Park (Anzac Day); Kuta; Counting the Swans) is a quietly reflective global citizen.  His styles, themes, references and allusions, reveal him to be a poet beholden in equal measure to the beauty and truth possible in both the classic and the modern; form and free verse; the personal lyrical and the impersonal discursive; and in both the world inside and the world outside the poem.  Sometimes that world is grievous with loss (All Quiet; a rhyme for the Nursery perhaps...); sometimes, limned by hope (Love what you’ve done with the Place).  Sometimes it is, simultaneously, both (One Tree Bridge).  I believe it is this rare balance that is the finest attribute of Greene’s poetry, and it is on display in spades in the tone-perfect ‘Who’s there’—a paean to Shakespeare’s Hamlet in which the poet sings inclusively for all readers/audience members a complex meditation on questions of identity and relation (the play within the play within the play, to paraphrase one of Greene’s own lines). This strikes me as no less than a major poem.


There is wit here too, a sense of humour sometimes immediate, evident; sometimes impish, complex, hiding behind doors in the poems that open on further reading.  For examples of this play see ‘Preparing the Way’, ‘Here be Dragons’, and ‘Jerusalem! Jerusalem!’  You will also find that Greene has a very keen nose for the ironic.


Some readers might desire the long poem: no poem here is longer than a single page, some seem to verge on the epigrammatic.  But only ‘seem’. Greene is not a minimalist: even the shortest poems are long in meaning, reading as hard-won by a craftsman industrious and dextrous with his tools, shaping and paring voice, metre, tone, enjambment, unobtrusive rhyme, punctuation, etc.  Most importantly he seems to have in his pocket that small set of Allen keys that in their turning fine-tune the poem from formless to form, idea to thing, vision to image; from draft to limpid but complex and muscular down-to-earth finished product.  They read then as the reverse of this process: carefully chosen word and line expanding and echoing out into the open fields of music and meaning — myth, religion, history, literature, art, science, self, world.


A perfect example of this is the short poem, ‘Galapagos’.  Dwelling on/in this poem, with its wry, mischievous nod to Wallace Stevens, I have come to regard it is as something of a mini-masterpiece.  It may, indeed, be doubly indebted to Stevens in that it reminds me strongly of his great short poem ‘Anecdote of the Jar’.  Both poems parallel and juxtapose human consciousness and its creations (the jar/Darwin’s theory) with the wildness and wilderness of Creation itself; and both treat the essential loss and incongruous beauty resulting from this interaction:

It did not give of bird or bush, / Like nothing else in Tennessee. (Stevens)

yet Darwin shaped a brand new world, / its consequences binding. (Greene)


From the opening ‘Birth Song’ (perhaps a sort of wry credo) to the closing laugh-out-loud ‘Jerusalem! Jerusalem!’ this beautifully balanced and sequenced chapbook is a gem of a book and a book of gems; perhaps as good a first small selection of poems as a reader is likely to be happy witness to.


Mal McKimmie, author of Poetileptic (Five Islands Press, Australia, 2005), The Brokenness Sonnets 2 (in ‘Take Five 08’, Shoestring Press, UK, 2009)


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These poems speak immediately: a calm and thoughtful voice grows through their images and observations, and I almost see - I certainly hear - a quiet inference of narratives preceding and following from these moments.  It is deeper than personality, this sound, and physicality, and calm repetition of phrases.  It is a poetry of wry parables, and secular propositions of the daily, asking who's there and why and what to make of it all.  This happens in nearly all of the poems and, together, they gather to feel like a much larger book.  They get into the reader by a stealth that is wonderfully devious, extremely likeable and not by special effects or dramas.  They are also expansions of quiet humour, long and deeply engaging echoes of 'being'.


Philip Salom, author of  The Well Mouth and Sky Poems


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One Tree Bridge captivates the reader by illustrating two of the most irrevocable truths of existence: birth and death.  Sometimes the poems walk from one to the other on a single page, the lines perfectly conveying the weariness of this existence while remaining hopeful because the voice is so nakedly truthful.  Why is that important? As The Road Menders explains: “. . . she walks to show that need exists,” and the resonance of this image is why a reader will want to meet the poet, stretch out a hand, and say, “Yes, I understand.”  These poems deal with hard truths but Greene manages to give them to us with a beauty of form and sound so delicately balanced that they go down easy.  The reader feels the burn of the poems but can’t help consuming more because we desperately need the knowledge.  As the poem Kuta says: “We are children deficient in learning.”


When thinking of life and death, the poem, “Phoenix,” at the center of the collection is terribly appropriate.  The idea of rising from the ashes is attractive, but the poem doesn’t sugar-coat the subject matter.  The speaker has seen the devastation of our wars. “I saw Berlin, Warsaw, / Baghdad and Lahore, their flattened walls. . .”  Yet even so, the voice is one of continual movement. This reflects the narrative of the other poems.  Some talk about humanity at large, our ability to hurt each other and what comes of that, as in Rope: “five million dead, two million more struck dumb,” Others, like Birth Song, deal with the individual, so that the scale of the collection moves in and out from the global to the personal: “This is the legend of my birth, my life.”


One Tree Bridge is the simplest possible metaphor for existence on our world, yet the message inside the poems is larger than that.  The bridge that humanity likes to construct of our history exists only because we believe in our own importance.  In reality, our culture and wars are just a solitary blip on the vast timeline of our planet’s life.  The birth and death of an individual, of our species, are simply two stops on the road within an infinite universe.  “One Tree Bridge” explains that so much of what we think we know about the universe depends on our perspective.  Thus, this chapbook is much more than a collection of poems illustrating one man’s voice.  Rather, as the title poem asserts, these words act as “a bridge into infinity.”  Crossing that bridge is what makes life, from birth to death, worth living.


Christine Klocek-Lim, author of  How to photograph the heart and The book of small treasures

Editor, Autumn Sky Poetry


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Dennis Greene was once voted one of the top poets on the Internet.  One Tree Bridge is a poignant example of why, containing all of the elements that make a Greene poem an essential read.  Beginning from the first page, Greene wows the reader with vivid imagery that takes us to a different place and time—in this case, a mythic birth place where “he touched the moon’s dark deep fallopian tubes / and shaped them with his love and thrusting hips.”  Clearly, this is not your ordinary birth poem.


One Tree Bridge is not without another key component of a true Greene poem.  In “Job,” the poet takes on the God question in a dramatic way that uses sound to interrogate as surely as whole worlds.  The poet writes, “I write in dust, I write the days; a thousand thousand / years in which the wind plays games and yet the slow / earth stays.”  The sounds pull the reader in, then twists their insides in sweeping motions that leave us breathless and wondering.


This collection wouldn’t be complete without some of Greene’s biting social commentary.  Few poets can criticize artistically, but Greene deals with subjects ranging from the massacre of native people in “Rope,” the changing view of society through technology in “Here be dragons,” and blue collar anonymity in “The Road Menders.”  Such commentary is tempered with tendered moments between a husband and wife in “Love what you’ve done with the place” and between a father and daughter in the title poem, “One Tree Bridge.”


By the close of this chapbook, the reader has reached to Antarctica, Warsaw, London, and Perth; has questioned God and then turned on man; has learned how much she has yet to learn.  This chapbook leaves us knowing that we are all “sad borrowers of the dawn” – and that that might be okay if a painter “takes the brush / adds Vincent and amen.”


Larina Warnock, author of Guitar Without Strings

Editor, The Externalist

Copyright © 2010

Touch: The Journal of Healing

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