Book: Accents by Arthur Turfa (Blue Deco Publishing, P.O. Box 1663, Royal Oak, MI, 48068, 2017, 166 pp., $13.99, paperback, www.amazon.com/AccentsArthurTurfa/dp/1546473351/)
South-Carolina-based Arthur Turfa has been a Lutheran pastor, Army chaplain, and
teacher. Accents is his second foray into publishing poetry; an earlier collection, Places and Times, appeared in 2015.
People write poetry for different reasons, reasons often deducible from the poems themselves. Some writers swoon over language’s musicality, crafting poems rich in rhyme, consonance, and alliteration. They shun wordiness, knowing that excess verbiage weakens a poem by making its glissandos of globular vowels and cascades of chiming consonants harder to hear.
Other writers long to say something striking and memorable. They avoid boring clichés, steer clear of anesthetic abstractions, and use muscular modern diction and syntax, never saying “behold” when they could say “see,” so their audience listens alertly as if to a lover’s breakup speech and not, say, a third-rate Elizabethan playwright’s dullest drama being intoned over their car radio as they weave down the interstate at 3 AM.
Still others are drawn to poetry because they revere the wordness of words. They would never mangle a transitive verb by misusing it as an intransitive verb and would sooner strut outdoors naked than publish a poem riddled with typos or grammatical errors.
Turfa appears to write poetry to share life lessons. “All the loose ends I see / now in a wondrous tapestry” are his book’s earnest final words. Turfa wants readers to know his mind has drawn connections between disparate ideas, enriching his life. The book’s four sections each have a prose prologue driving this point home, e.g.: “Places: They have an importance beyond what we call them or how we use them. Each place where I have spent some time, and many places where I have not spent much time, reveal something about myself or something that I need to know.”
Some poems strive for humor, like “Accents (II)”:
“Have you heard of JeSUSZ, Artur? He vaz HunGARIAN just like us!announced Grandma like Archangel Gabrielas we stood in the long driveway.”
Turfa sketches a more melancholy reality in “Reflections on Music,” whose speaker abandons dreams of rock-and-roll stardom with the Vietnam War looming:
“those dreams are blocked by inabilityto buy another guitar with Dad unemployed againand Mom actually earning more than he was.College costs money, and I would rather notbet that I could survive a rice paddy to claima G.I. Bill that actually covered everything.”
“Berkeley by the Bay” elicits emotion by exposing its young speaker’s vulnerability:
“Vanished was the charmdissipated the auraof revolution and wonder.A meanness rolled into townlike fog from the Bay.Trying to create a new persona,I favored Black Russians from Oleg’sover beer from a keg.The Campanile loomed on campuslike the ivory tower denied mea stone’s throw away.”
Turfa has much he wishes to say, many memories that are meaningful to him that he wishes to share, and we can likely expect more poetry in this sincere autobiographical vein from him in the future.
Jenna Le, a daughter of Vietnamese refugees, lives and works as a physician and educator in New Hampshire. She is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Anchor & Plume, 2016). Her poetry has appeared in AGNI Online, The Best of the Raintown Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, and Massachusetts Review, while her essays and criticism have been published by Avatar Review, Burrow Press, Fanzine, Pleiades, Poetry Northwest, The Rumpus, SPECS, and Tupelo Quarterly. Her website is jennalewriting.com.