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Medicine and Magic
by Thomas L. Conroy
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Reviewed by: Norman Goldman

Thomas Conroy's impressive debut collection of poetry, Medicine and Magic, demonstrates a fine sense of poetic craft exhibiting diversity in tone with tightly focused themes.

There is clear evidence of much hard work here, as his observations pertaining to earth and nature are filled with vivid images coupled with highly musical language. Conroy effectively communicates with his readers thematically powerful poems exploring a range of varied and far reaching topics such as the meaning of the Sasquatch, Beachstones, and Tears of a Lizard, Wind, Old Man, Wealth and many more. These are poems with language that is plainspoken, honest and refreshing. Moreover, they are frank with a great deal of emotional honesty, as we witness in the first few lines of "Wealth:"

With a single blade pocket knife
He slices the green apple,
Placing the wedges
On the saucer of his teacup.
The Mercedes at the curb
Belongs to another
With irritable bowel syndrome
Drinking latte and pepto bismo.

Imagery that is simple yet razor sharp, as exemplified in the first two stanzas of "Old Man:"

No one is entitled
To more
Than they can remember
We choose what to see
And build around us;
Unlike the trees,
Plucked off the wind
And stuck in dirt
By random hands.

And we are captivated by a voice with a no nonsense delivery and a brutal frankness, as illustrated in the first stanza of "Medieval Humor:"

Why does every poet write
A eulogy to prove they are a poet?
Don't they get it?
Renaissance poets were kept whores
Who pimped for dinner.
And the joke was the master
Was too ugly for a poem.
So they wrote about dead relatives,
While wishing the master himself
Would die.
Medieval humor!

Conroy has candidly indicated to me that he started writing poetry in grammar school and he has continued ever since for the past 50 years. Although school was a bore, Conroy confesses, he nonetheless was always a prolific reader and as he mentioned to me, what he read made the active part of his life more meaningful.

He has worked as a lifeguard, busboy, bartender, business executive and armed guard. No doubt, the diversity of these occupations has influenced his keen perception of life, providing him with a great deal of inspiration, and at the same time offering playful and reflective meditations that we can easily relate to and understand.

Poetry does not necessarily have to be blunt, however, its meaning must ultimately become clear, and here is where Conroy shines, drawing in his readers with intelligent, poetic and humble language. Conroy is working on his second collection that I look forward to savoring.

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