A review of LopLop in a Red City by Kenneth Pobo

Reviewed by Elvis Alves

Loplop in a Red City
by Kenneth Pobo
Circling Rivers
ISBN-13: 978-1939530035, Paperback, 102 pages, May 15, 2017

Kenneth Pobo’s LopLop in a Red City is a collection of ekphrastic poems written in an informative manner. One gets the sense that Pobo is comfortable wearing the teacher’s hat (he teaches at a college) and that he wants the viewer to pay attention to the art piece that a specific poem is about. His writing is lucid to the point that what he says about the art pieces is never overbearing. In this way, Pobo does a wonderful job keeping the audience captive.

Pobo sees art as intricately tied to life. This notion pulsates throughout the collection. However, the artist can live a difficult life, “ Never enough cash for paint/A need to create/a new form of halo” (Vincent Van Gogh 24). Here we learn about poverty in Van Gogh’s life. Other artists featured in the collection include Redon, Kahlo, and Ernst. The lack of money did not prevent Van Gogh’s drive to create art, “The hand becomes the brush/Lines surrender to curve/Even the human figure/Isn’t safe.” The artist must find ways to move with life and creativity allows this:

A bee in your hat stings you
again and again. Time.
It buzzes, dies.
Much to do
Move along (The Greeting 31)

Loplop, a birdlike character, was created by Max Ernst. Loplop’s personae are on display in Pobo’s book. There is longevity in Loplop Introduces Loplop, “Even in death my feathers will travel/will enter the world in ways/I never could—/they will be my soul” (37). Pobo indicates the inescapability of letting go, especially in the name of growth. In Loplop, he writes, “The body want(s) a map/to return to the Earth/or, to get lift/we have to let bits/of our selves go” (38). The Earth here is a source of nutrient and grounding. The flight motif is also apparent and points to the necessity of progress (as in becoming a better self). This advice at first glance is self-evident, something that we all, or most of us, already know. But there is depth to Pobo’s poetry and that is why it is worth subsequent glances.

An iconoclastic edge bears in the poem Triumphal Entry, which plays on the biblical story of Jesus’s entry into Jerusalem before his persecution. “He walks unrecognize, wonders why/we’ve spent centuries building him/churches” (49). This is an anti-institution piece but its essence lies beyond this claim. Pobo’s wants us to reclaim our humanity, an egalitarian perspective that Jesus too shared (in the poem, Jesus visits friends). Pobo writes that we “break whatever holds us against our will” (Marionette Theatre—Jawlensky and Marianne von Werelfkin in the Foreground 52). The final poem in the collection, Pastoral, reminds readers of the interconnectivity of everything, “You want the world to still/stop its endless turning—/that means your death/everyone’s death” (90). This lesson, and others in the collection, are timely due to the concerns raised about climate change and other affairs in our current world. Pobo’s poetry reminds us of the tutorial aspect of art and is worth the read.

About the reviewer: Elvis Alves is the author of the poetry collections Ota Benga (Mahaicony Books, 2017) and Bitter Melon (Mahaicony Books, 2013). Find out more at www.poemsbyelvis.blogspot.com