Eve Anthony Hanninen

photo: Everett B. Wilson 1961

Review of Poems in “The Centrifugal Eye” by Eve Anthony Hanninen (May 2008)

The cover art is unassuming, with a scene of a peaceful lake (or river) and boats on the front side; towering trees planted on a grassy bank, with Bentwood-style chairs paralleling the water’s edge on back. The title? Just Poems. Simple, but the placid imagery does set the tone for the content inside.

And listening to David Francis’ spoken word/music CD, Poems, proved to be a delightful surprise for this bone-weary editor on the eve of The Centrifugal Eye’s May quarter publication. Okay, so normally when I plan to review something myself (not often), I give myself at least a couple weeks’ lead time, but believe me, this time it just wasn’t possible.

It was lucky for both David Francis and me that these eighteen poems set to music were soothing, amusing, and touching (yet uplifting). Otherwise, they’d have been given a lukewarm listen and then slipped to the “dead file.” Well, they’re not really “set to music.” The poems are more like small, lyrical, vocal interludes between accomplished phrasings of instrumental music. The “verses” range, both in voice and content, from diverting to pensive vignettes that vine around the story of a couple’s cycle through the genesis of their relationship.

I’ve only listened to the entire CD three times so far, and haven’t decided yet on particular favorites. I also find it unfortunate that the track titles are not listed on the CD insert, so couldn’t really identify the poems yet, anyway. The individual titles can be located on CD Baby.com, but I find that inconvenient.

I can tell you that there are more than a couple poems which get me nodding or smiling, sometimes both. Each poem is first introduced by a melody or rhythmic riff which features a different musical instrument, be it piano, guitar, flute or horn, for example, so it’s natural to consider each of these poems a song of sort. Personally, I don’t usually like commercial songs that have “talky” parts in them, however my impression of Francis’ poems doesn’t suffer from this same disdain. Instead, the soft quality of Francis’ voice, his steady and practiced intonation, place me immediately into the setting of a poetry reading staged in a funky, European bistro glazed with slanted light.

The climate of David Francis’ Poems sows introspection; the musical riffs seed emotions, the melodies of both instrumental and vocal craft flourish into a hybrid of form, his poetic world of contemporary romance flowers in my imagination. All this, on a dreamy, lightly-involved level. Refreshing, especially after the rather somber material I’ve recently been buried in the past few months.

Highlights of Poems: Francis’ ability to weave slant rhymes naturally into many of the pieces. His subtly retro, beat-like intonation. Jazzy, folksy, percussive accompaniments. Good pacing.