Peter Krok's Looking for an Eye could have been called looking for a door, or an exit, or an answer, #poetryreview
Night. Lamplight. A lover’s touch. Piano enlarging the air.
If the cover design on Peter Krok’s Looking for an Eye were an album cover, the green eye lurking at the edge of Stephen King’s dock would fit nicely among dusty 13th Floor Elevators records, Cramps singles, and Ramones LPs in a bedroom adorned with B movie posters promising doom, doom, doom. It’s a whimsical cover; the menacing shadow on the planks reminds me of a man with an axe. Or a hook. The more I look at it the more I think it’s a hook. Plus it feels as if I’m looking into the eye of the Incredible Hulk, the eyelid as green as radioactive rage.
Looking for an Eye could have been called Looking for a door, or an exit, or an answer, or for rhythm; and Krok’s new collection is like listening to well traveled busker, his cap like an overturned spider on the concrete before him, the next T already spilling out of dark tunnels.
It’s not that he’s writing bluesy alt-beat poetry or anything of the sort; Krok crafts image driven poetry centered around his home, both visceral and that of memory, and of course his heart. And the book might as well been called Searching for a key, for the landscape is littered with music, voices, and sound.
Some of the best moments are when Fur Elise echoes through the home, cool darkness pressing against the lamplight. For Krok, music, and sound are just as important as the images he frames with sparse form, or the landscapes he visits.
And there are people there too, not huddling around a campfire near Stephen King’s dock, avoiding the gaze of the grouchy Hulk, but working long hours, coming home to dose up on late night TV or searching neighborhood trash cans for reusable stuff. They are touching images, and earnest, and Krok, in these poems, acts as advocate, voice, and eye for the lower class and working class people of his neighborhood.
In the end Looking for an Eye makes an appropriate title, for Krok’s work is anchored by image. Some of the poems, in particular the elegies towards the end, travel smooth like old cowboy boots, for when the poet marries image with the iambic rhythm of really good conversation the poems break into easy strides; driving through Ohio, boarding the city bus, a lover’s touch.
Surrealism simmers in a few of these poems as the city darkens, “My City” and “10 PM At a Philadelphia Rec Center” among them, and Krok plays with WC Williams in “Dodge Poetry Festival” when he relishes a portabella mushroom sandwich like a widow relishes plums; conversations Krok allows us to eavesdrop upon.
Sometimes his eye does more talking than his ear, such as in “Girl with Bass Fiddle” where the poor musician is frozen by his eye, but Krok, like a busker, plays with the reader as if the reader was a listener, coin in hand, such as in “Athens, OH” where he teases out the music of the word Ohio, then drops the music, the assonance, half way through the poem, only to pick up on it at the end and echo it in the following poem, “The Ride We Left Behind.” Like a barroom piano player Krok returns to riffs and keys, the manuscript a carefully crafted playlist. And he returns to youth at the end, and in “Returning” the speaker graces the old cathedral of youth “to prepare for the voice/ behind the curtain and tomorrow;” voices aches and bend the air throughout the manuscript.
Krok’s a prodder, unafraid to question, unafraid of the question, a noble tradition in its own right, whose heart is centered, seeking a way to end the nagging that is to be alive and a feeling person in a country littered with noise, spin and easy fixes.
And perhaps that is why the Incredible Hulk at the end of Stephen King’s dock is so angry, no one bothers to stop and question anymore, at least that’s what the Hulk would like us to believe. Certainly Krok thinks that questioning is important, to stare yourself down, to ask “…who am I in the scheme/of things? What kind of noisemaker would you call me?”