Mann, Jeff. “Ash: Poems from Norse Mythology”, Rebel Satori Press, 2011.
When We Had Will
I first discovered Jeff Mann’s writing when I read his Lambda award winning collection of short fiction, “A History of Barbed Wire” and I remember commenting on the lyricism of his beautiful prose. Now that same lyricism appears in his new collection of poems. This is a different kind of collection and it is epic in scope. Going back to Norse mythology, Mann presents us with new poems and new ideas. While the themes of love, loss, greed and ambition are universal, Mann’s approach to them is his alone. He takes these ideas which have been with us since the beginning of time and presents them to us in achingly beautiful language. While the poems are about a different time, they are just as relevant today as some ideas never change. In one of the first poems, Mann tells us that there was a time when man had his own will and things were new and fresh and the world was ordered. Something happened to that will and that is where you can bring yourself to today while looking back.
If you know Jeff Mann, then you know that he a big bearish guy and we do not usually associate guys like him to write beautiful poetry. I quickly understood after meeting him last year that labels imposed by others are useless—almost as useless as the statement I made that we do not expect lyric poetry from a guy like Jeff Mann. I think that that is what makes this book so beautiful. The ideas within the book and the individual poems catch the reader by surprise. Mann seems to have weighed each word before committing it to paper and the result is an adventure in poetry that I, for one, will not forget for a longtime. By going back to the sources of Norse poetry, Mann is able to interpret the ideas and tie them to today. The poems are haunting and they cover the history of the Norse from the beginning through the demise of their civilization, The Norse characters that appear in the poems are epic—Odin, Sigurd, Thor, Balder, Brynhild, Surt. Their worlds are wide and when we take them and the poems together, we get a look at the human condition and the issues that have been us since the creation. We learn that even with all of the changes that the world has gone through, man, himself, has really not changed that much and we still think about life and death and the afterlife. Along with that that the emotions of love and hate come into play and we all strive for a better place in which to live.