THE OBEDIENT DOOR by SEAN TUMOANA FINNEYLAUREL JOHNSON reviews
The Obedient Door by Sean Finney
(Meritage Press, 2005)
Sean Finney is a journalist, copywriter, and poet who lives and works in San Francisco. The Obedient Door is his debut collection. Finney's influences include Japanese, Chinese, and Islamic writers. Adding drama to Finney's poetry are original drawings by Ward Schumaker.
Finney is modern man, sharing life poetically in fragments of perceived reality. In "Along the River", for example, we share his vision:
Surface where boats will sport the nerves and crannies
undoing the vine
lurch the summer months
is thin the veneer
where boats will lurch
mouths gone, and the sparkle
of leaves caught in the air.
Under a grouping he calls "The Rimbaud Poems," I read and re-read the following excerpt from "Innuendo Feces" because the haunting words brought memories of an often-destructive work world:
The vampire that rends us gently
commands that we amuse ourselves
and forget every receptionist.
And in "Veillees" verse II, Finney reveals shadow worlds that are not always what they seem. He gives us fragments, surreal images, and allows readers to reach their own conclusions:
The two extremes of the room, other décor of the conquest,
trapped beyond judgment. The carved wall
is a succession of psychological blows, snobberies,
the cold air of geological accident –
rapid and intense dream of sentimental groups
constructed from white ash.
In "Job Titles", the poet's descriptive words feel like they read. The reader experiences the lot of a dishwasher, a jazz musician, and a Chinese poet. I chose the Chinese poet in excerpt:
…this grief has no pine
no bamboo, no thousand
grasses weeping with dew.
It's barefoot, a giant
record in a cave.
"I Can't Stand the City as I Saw it That Day" is lyrical, rolls soft off the tongue when read aloud. Finney blends ancient and modern life into a troubling whole:
How hard the adamantine doors
one must scratch to escape
and so be borne on a sea of blood,
unknown to the knuckles,
whose jealousy was of a higher sort.
* * *
I peer into the regions of perpetual mist
without much success. These rigors
are sustained by a whole class of people
working at our behest. Would that it snow
more freely, and the plastic wrapped
nudge each other in despair.
An engine and a siren
in an obscure academy…
One critic describes Finney's poems as "scraps he has so eloquently assembled for us." These scraps are what I call images, fragments of life, vestiges of emotion, and snatches of poetic impressions. Finney's poetry inspires curiosity and self-searching as they lead us in and out of time into surreal circumstance. If you enjoy modern poetry, consider reading The Obedient Door.
Laurel Johnson is a Retired Registered Nurse and the author of four books. She is Senior Reviewer for Midwest Book Review; Review Editor for New Works Review; Staff Reviewer for Shadow Poetry Quill Quarterly Review; and occasional submitting reviewer for The Wandering Hermit Review and Irish News and Entertainment. Her poetry and prose can be found online in various literary e-zines. She lives in Nebraska with her husband of forty years.