Reviewed by Christie Keele
Knives on a Table
by Peter Mladinic
Better Than Starbucks Press
ISBN: 9781737621904, Aug 2021, 99 pages, Paperback
Peter Mladinic’s new poetry book, Knives on a Table, is a collection of superbly written, insightful, and intriguing collage of poems that should be on everyone’s reading list. At once both violent at times and gentle many times, this collection of poems pierces your heart, awakens your senses, and takes you on a visual journey, a journey where important moments happen, sentimental moments happen, and gut wrenching moments happen. This collection is a plethora of mixed emotions….Those of love, loss, living, and dying. Mladinic is a brilliant composer of the written word, of describing a feeling, an incident, a thought, and with the finesse of a fine master who cares deeply for his subjects. Add a bit of sensuality and desire, the frailty of the human mind and of human behavior, and the cruelty of death, and one has a window into the world of Mladinic’s psyche and his free verse poetry.
“First Haircut,” is one example of Mladinic’s theme of innocent life and observation. We can see the little boy sitting on his mother’s lap getting his first haircut. We can feel how he feels, content and in love’s arms. Straight forward free verse, to the point, yet insightful of his mother’s pride and his own capacity to maybe someday remember he was”under the strange blade.”
A poem of another kind of love, “Enchantress,” speaks of a familiar feeling about the female gender. Mysterious, yet knowable, seductive, yet welcomed, a woman drawing a man in and his willingness to fall is only matched by the ending,
Enchantress, I imagine
sitting under a tarp
in the woods, out of the rain,
the rain all around me,
falling all around me.
That summer rain
is the nearness of you.
Mladinic defines the relationship between a man and a woman in a relatable straightforward, yet charming way. By turns, the subject and mood in Mladinic’s poetry can change abruptly, and we are caught off guard with the sharpness of his direct, immediate verse. In “The Tylenol Murder,” a poem based on a true event, the murderer is the narrator, the one grossly commenting on his own violent behavior. This poem draws you in, you feel the shudder, you feel the fear building under the current of one opening a bottle, sitting across the aisle from the killer and not knowing it, the irony of what is hidden but is in broad daylight. “Who’s to catch me? That won’t happen.” A bone chilling glimpse into the mind of a monster.
However, Mladinic’s free verse is not without care and compassion once again. In “How Rich People Live,” a boxer is a good man, yet a troubled man, a man who had everything and lost everything. A man wrestling with his conscience. This is a heart-tugger. Tender feelings juxtaposed with a strong, powerful man is just what real life offers, a human being once on top of the world crushed by one deed that caused his tumble. In short, a poem to keep one grounded.