A review of Darren C. Demaree’s Bombing the Thinker.
by Mikayla Davis, Former Poetry Editor
I met Darren Demaree once, for a few minutes at a booth at AWP. The only thing I knew about him at the time was that he wrote poetry and my classmate had helped edit his book Two Towns Over, from Trio House Press, and couldn’t stop saying good things about his work. So, when I was asked if I’d like read his newest book of poems, Bombing the Thinker, debuting this September from Blacklash Press, I was eager for the opportunity.
Now, beyond the obvious, I didn’t know much about Auguste Rodin’s famous statue, The Thinker, except for the fact that it was in a museum somewhere. I didn’t realize there were multiple casts of the statue, also created by Rodin. I could visualize the pose, as iconic as it is. None of this prepared me for these poems.
The first poem, “A Letter to Auguste Rodin About Useless Wine,” puts you into an entirely different perspective. At first, I thought I was the statue, made of mud, so lonely in the fact that I am solitary, but the introduction of wine, “a red that could / action against / our own red,” offers us something more than a red mud or clay. It brought the imagery of blood, of fighting, of war. This imagery was solidified as we learned that “he lost his legs,” and “needed / to be softened,” once more, brought me instantly to our soldiers coming home with wounds that we cannot heal completely (9). That so many people come home from a day of hostility forever changed.
This is, of course, possibly just my own history being put into the poems. I grew up in a military household and I have seen the effects PTSD and other afflictions can have on people, both military and civilian. However, with poems titled “1970,” and “The Damaged Thinker,” it is clear that Demaree is evoking The Thinker statue placed at the Cleveland Museum, which was bombed in 1970 in what many believed to be a protest against the “ruling class,” and occurred when many were protesting the Vietnam war.
Bombing the Thinker seems to reflect that idea of protest within the poems as I was drawn into the woes of not only The Thinker, but those who observed him. There seemed to be an almost pleading tone of all the speakers, to question the purpose behind the actions that destroy. “Free From Arrest,” (55) seems to question the motives of the artists and their protests, while it is followed by a poem that speaks of the seemingly the statue as “afraid to move on, / forward, at any pace (57).”
Despite the bleak imagery and haunting tone, I think overall, Bombing the Thinker is a collection of poems about recovery and about finding the joys in the little things: sharing history with your children, telling dirty jokes, the strength of getting up the next day to face the world again. This collection makes you think, as I believe anything related to The Thinker should do, but it makes you feel just as much.
And, because of this book, I might just go visit one of the local colleges as they exhibit Rodin’s work. So I can experience this masterpiece and what it has meant throughout history even further.
Mikayla Davis is a UCA MFA graduate who specializes in poetry while dabbling in fiction. After getting her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University, she got lost in two-year business degrees from the local community college before finding her way back to the page. She has a love for cats and magic and has been published in various print and online journals.
Purchase Demaree’s newest collection via this link: Bombing the Thinker