John Rowe, of the San Francisco East Bay, has given us a highly imaginative book of poetry to enjoy over and over again, called WINSOME LOSESOME. The double meaning of winsome tells us that something fun is going on here. Who hasn’t had that experience, portrayed on the cover, of losing a sock in the wash? John takes in other strange phenomena. Then he puts his insights into words which make us think and enable us to laugh at ourselves.
We find an example in his first poem, “The Eighth Day of the Week,” in which he hopes to see something that is invisible, 'now that he has a little more time/a little more space." In “Nothing’s Lost” he says “Since I have nothing to worry about," he wryly wraps that phrase around specific images, mulling them until he does find something to worry about.
John uses everyday images like cows in POEM FOR A THREE LEGGED COW, car’s power features in START ‘ER UP, and inane small talk in NEIGHBORS to convey wise insights through everyday experiences we can all relate to. He takes a word or thought and chews on it until it is delightfully expressed and ready for us to digest.
His poems are expressed in free verse, lyric, narrative, found poems, tanka, and minimalist styles. He uses the poetic device of compression to an ultimate degree, inner rhyme like "bale/bail," metaphors such as "the wide and crooked road" being the reason why we find it hard "to walk/the straight and narrow." His way with hyperbole, understatement, homonyms, puns, repetition of one word with different connotations in the same poem and irony as in ANYTIME, where he gives a poetic dissertation on how we promise to be there for someone but "Not today," have us laughing and turning the page for more.
The subject of many of his poems has to do with the actual process of writing poems and he shows us in the last poem, HIGHER, that he has learned the lesson, "There’s a danger/in taking things too far" and if he’s "Going to practice/upward mobility," he must practice and study the art, "collect enough feathers,/to put together/a pair of wings." Something that he has obviously done. This is a book that can be picked up anytime at any page and read with light heart.
JOHN ROWE’s other poetry chapbooks are At My Wit's Beginning and 15 Years, which previews a full-length collection that's in the works. Manuel Garcia, Jr. says: “John Rowe takes us into the fault lines of the language down to its asthenosphere of infinitely fluid consciousness hidden beneath the brittle commonness of the surface.”
JR’s poems have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies. He’s been a frequent award-winner in Artists Embassy International’s Annual Dancing Poetry Festival Contests, including a Grand Prize (2002) and a First Prize (2010). He received the Grand Prize in the Bay Area Poets Seasonal Review Contest 2010.
JR is actively involved in the organization and leadership of community poetry events. He’s a co-host of the monthly (2nd Fridays) Last Word Poetry Reading Series, held at Nefeli Caffe in Berkeley . For many years he’s served as president of the Bay Area Poets Coalition and associate editor of BAPC’s Poetalk magazine.