Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Line Between (A book review)

Mark C. Durfee, The Line Between (St. Clair Shores, MI: Motor City Burning Press, 2010), 77 pages

This is the second collection of poetry by Mark Durfee, who regularly blogs at Walking Man. His first book, Stink, had a harder edge, as it focused mostly on life in Detroit. Although there is some of the hard edge of Durfee’s earlier book, because this book mostly deals with issues of life in the line between birth and death, the edges appear to me to have been dulled a bit. Empathy and compassion shine through Durfee’s words and images. In many places I found myself in agreement with this “man without a destination, [who] wants for little but cares for much,” (16) a man who acknowledges that in a long-life, he’s unable to give the beauty of a short–lived flower. (12) “If you wish to know me,” he writes, “then you must first know the pulsing rhythm of the psalms I sing.” Many of his poems have an ironic sense of humor such as the title of a poem (written by a self-professed smoker) “The Surgeon General should warn about karaoke.” (30) Or the line, “smart as a whip, but outta strength.” (56)

My favorite was the title poem, “The Line Between” in which Durfee writes lovingly about his grandmother who “lived beyond a century,” and lost a son to the sea during the war, and a husband thirty years before her own death. (58-60) The poem is a wonderful tribute and captures the tenderness of the love between her and her deceased husband and her family and even those with whom she shares space with in a nursing facility. The hard edge returns in the last poems as Durfee writes about the state of the economy, the lost jobs and the cost of medical care. In “A Final Act of Love,” Durfee tells of a man who has lost his job to the economy and last loving thing he can do to his family is to commit suicide, knowing his kids would qualify for a “dead man’s Social Security.” (66-67) It’s heartbreaking to acknowledge that there are people feel forced into such decisions…

Don’t look for this book in your local bookstore as you won’t find it there. But for ten bucks you can purchase a copy (shipping including) from the author. Check out his website.


  1. It's been a while since I purchased a pure poetry book. I'll check this out.

    Thanks for the tip.


  2. nice. dont miss this one...mark does a great job with it...

  3. If everyone read a book of poetry at the same time, for an hour, the earth would feel the shift in human consciousness.

  4. Nice review and good observation from Ron. :)

  5. I enjoyed this one much as well and reviewed it on goodreads. I need to update my blog on some of the books I've read as well from friends. What a busy time the break was, although I didn't get that much accomplished.

  6. oh I might have to give this a try! Thanks...for what appears to be a very good read!!! :)

  7. I have both and am reading Stink now. I didn't peek at the review of The Line I wanted it to surprise me--as Stink did!

    I loved the hard edge and gut check of Stink!

    Good stuff Bro.


  8. Thanks Sage. Anyone who would like to handle a copy for yourself click the pic on my blog. I am working on the third book of the trilogy then I want to take a break and just write.

    I don't do this for the publishing part of it but sometimes pieces come together in an order that needs to be expressed in that pattern to see a bigger picture. The entire picture will be fairly evident by the end of the next one PORCH SMOKING, maybe finished by March.

    Beyond that I don't really know what to say. I am a poet, and I am all over the map with it both stylistically and purpose. I wrote for over thirty years before I ever dared called myself a poet. Now I am a man who among other things is a poet. I have no pride nor shame in what it is I am.

    Be Well

    Thank You Again,


  9. I'll be adding that one to my collection. I enjoyed Mark's first one. Thanks for the review

  10. I hope your friend sells lots of books. Sounds like a good one. Good luck.

  11. Sage: Great post! When I read Jewel's poetry book I was a bit reluctant. However, I was surprised at the breath and depth of her expressiveness! This book sounds poignant!!

  12. I hope I get hold of this poetry book. I do read his poetry and love his work. (He is on my google reader.)

    Someday I hope you will review MY poetry book. Not that is going to happen any time soon!