A review of The Storm by Mark Lipman

Reviewed by Dan Speers

The Storm
by Mark Lipman
Vagabond Press
Nov 2023, Paperback, $15, ISBN: 9781958307021, 112 pages

There are two words that describe Mark Lipman’s book, The Storm, engaging and compelling. His poems are also remarkable for their insight not only into the individual’s struggle to find the answers to surviving the stress and emotional chaos of daily life, but for their calming suggestions and influences — and all while maintaining the rhythm and soul of both the poem and the poet.

Whether addressing “The Storm” within the soul of the individual, the senseless killing of a homeless man in “Sticks and Stones”, the struggle between the rich and the poor, the inanity of war in “Picking Sides”, or the never-ending conflict or perhaps choice in “An Ode to Life or Death”, Lipman’s poetry offers a perception that not only reveals the truth but possible solutions.

Lipman’s poetic style is obviously drawn from his world travel and experiences interviewing different people, seeking new adventures, and gaining an intimate knowledge of wide-ranging cultures and beliefs. This has given a unique perspective to his poems. While most poetry reflects the world through the eyes of a poet, Lipman’s marked empathy encourages him to remain just barely outside each poem just enough to be both objective and passionate at the same time.

Yet, as Lipman points out, one must not lose sight of “What Cannot Be Changed” in which he points out that “. . . There are just things / that cannot be done / no matter how hard we try, / that we must accept as they are.”  But even then, the poet cautions “. . . the journey continues every day . . . often uphill . . .” The trail, never-ending continues . . . / at the top of the slope . . . rest and reprieve . . . beyond the common path . . . to “The Other Side of the Horizon”.

Generally speaking, the more a poet explores the search for the meaning of life, love and tranquility, the more the poem becomes an expression of the poet’s techniques rather than a revelation of the poets insight and emotional susceptibilities. The poem, “The Ocean Sea”, expresses both this exploration and the richness of Lipman’s techniques, but the real treasure lies in the subtle portal into the poet’s sensibilities.

His “perfect moment of tranquility” is none-the-less highlighted by “that no matter how distant we may be, / with love in your heart, you can never be alone.” Turns out, it’s not this “. . . speck of dust / that we all call home,” but that it’s “in moments such as these” we may “. . .find that elusive peace.”

The ocean, seagulls, tide coastlines are integral element of Lipman’s poetic quest for paradise, both a place and a sentiment he expresses as an undiscovered place” in “Across the Blue Horizon,” where “the soul could truly fly,” it would in a dream “that stretches on forever” and “where the ocean serenades you / and puts your mind at rest.”

The title poem, “The Storm”, begins with the premise that “life is not complete / if we only live on sunny days / with tranquil seas to lull / us back to sleep.” 

We do not wait / for ideal conditions / to raise our voices / to speak of revolution / to ask permission / to live.” As the poet says, we laugh and dance and cry but look the muse “right in the eye / and let her know you do not conform.” At the point, Lipman appears to step inside his own poem to reveal that he is the master of his own fate. “I don’t run away from the rain, / for I am the storm.”

While much of this work is an expression of Lipman’s skill in stretching the limit of contemporary poetry, it also embraces a poet’s appreciation and love for traditional rhyme and meter, and there’s no finer example of this that as “To Love Like A Poet …Thru the Passage of Time”, artfully uses both true and slant rhymes to capture the passage of both love and time.

Still, Lipman does not get far away from the sea, rather it a nod to Lawrence Ferlinghetti whose own “Door to the Sea” was both a painting and an abstract expression, incorporates the sea, tidal waves, cliffs, ships, oceans and shores, a full press to an unknown horizon. This poem is an excellent lead-in to two well-written poems, “At the Edge of the World” and “Ode to the Ancient Mariner”.

In his Introduction to this collection, Lipman reveals the reasons for writing his reflections of and on the world as seen through his eyes, “. . . to set myself adrift and let the winds and raging waters carry me where they may.” And while his poetry is carrying him away, he remains cognizant of the indisputable truth, or in his words: ”… I’ve also come to realize that the storm is likewise an internal one, one in which I must create those calm seas within me, to find a true balance in life, to not only be active in this struggle we all fight just to stay afloat, but to use the time I’ve been given to truly make the most out of life.”

Of course, “If All Else Fails” “…there’s no greater poetry than the look of love in a woman’s eyes.” Now, that’s what I call seeing the world through the eyes of a poet.

About the reviewer: Dan Speers is a novelist, poet and writer of humor and satire, singer/songwriter and poet laureate of Haverhill, Massachusetts. He is also a former journalist and columnist, as well as the author of numerous college and adult education textbooks primarily in computer applications and programming languages. His novels include “Master Spies Die Laughing,” a political satire that turns on how a secret plan to attack Iran was bungled by inept intelligence, and “Boxes Lie Waiting,” a haunting mystery that questions what people think they see and what they think they know when confronted with the possibility of a murderer living in their midst. Told through the eyes of man suffering from traumatic brain injury, Boxes was named a quarterfinalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. His book on Tiger Woods: Ten Ways to Play the Lie, has thrilled and tickled the funny bones of golfers throughout the world. In addition to the infamous Tiger Woods Dictionary, this humorous satire has a serious side that explores the reasons why rich and famous men cheat on their wives. His poem, Does Anyone Know I’m Here? won the 2005 Tom Howard/John H. Reid Poetry Contest sponsored by Tom Howard Books. Another poem, So Very Cold Outside, was first published in Margie, The American Journal of Poetry, vol. 5, as one of six American Journal finalists in 2006. His songs include Deep Red Wine, Come On Out, Haverhill, Bonita, Run Kitty Run, and Chasing Gold.