Jenny Catlin reviews The Last Man by R.L. Swihart

The Last Man
R.L. Swihart
Kanev Books; March 20, 2012

I am in the habit of agreeing to time consuming tasks that I don’t really have time to complete. The Last Man is one of my recent over extensions but it is also a reminder of why I say yes to most anything written, because if I say no, I might just miss a writer like this. The Last Man is an instinctively, compulsively collection of works. What R L Swihart presents readers is stark raving madness; it is also a bit brilliant. The poems in this collection are at once nonsense and prophesy.

Swihart’s poems bounce and sway between free verse, prose, and a few things in between. This collection is refreshing; nothing in The Last Man comes across as a poet’s poem. Without being simplistic or lacking structure, Swihart’s poems bounce and sway between free verse, prose, and a few things in between. His words give the reader the impression that Swihart is saying ‘These are my poems; this is how I wrote them. Maybe you will read them and maybe even like them’ they don’t pander to the reader or seek to find a high plane, rather they seem to have found their own Zen like place of simply being.

Though he addresses redundant daily events, he weaves them together in a perfectly surreal manner that creates an unusual kind of envy in me.:

I was between planes and had few options. I’m supposed to watch the sugar,
But after three passes I decided a sweet roll would go great with coffee.

“Just a Cinnabon Classic please-extra icing.” Against my usual: unraveling
from the outside in, I went strait for the gooey center. The plastic fork lost
a tooth and the gooey eye popped out.

That’s when the fleshy pinna dropped on my plate. (from Rouge Ear)

When a poet convinces me that their eyes see the world with the same fever that his/her words create I am mystified. These poems easily relay that message:

I say mountain but really it’s a mountain in conjunction with a cloud and
three consecutive mornings (from Mountain)

Of course logic prevails; a writer is like any writer. They must revise and rewrite and muck through the rejection letters and writers circle feedback. The real joy in Swihart’s poetry it that it doesn’t feel the least bit reached for. I have a tremendous amount of respect for writers that are able to create images and snapshots for us that are at once practical and fantastic.

When poetry can invoke the kind of child-like wonder that Swihart’s does, I am in:

Sometimes I find it helps. I applied the algorithm to last April and got impossible
results. I placed all the pieces in two ziplock bags and labeled them accordingly:
Gaps and Dust.

Ignoring the gaps, I was able to save a young girl, who’s still learning perspective, a few sleepless nights. (from ALGORITHM)

The Last Man is a book worth owning. Its unique ability to be exactly what is and asks for nothing more is refreshing.

Own at:

Published by lenavanelslander

Lena Vanelslander swam many waters. History, Comparative Culture Analysis, Languages, Mythology, Literature, Poetry, too many to sum up. After a life of tribulations the turning point came in her mid twenties: she started to write actively poetry in English. Her melancholic and darkminded nature colour her poems to an individual signature in both time and space. Poems got published in the Stray Branch, Savage Manners, the Delinquent and The Sylvan Echo. Her first chapbook ‘Ma Chanson de Rien du Tout’ has been released in September this year. Her first book of poetry, written with Marilyn Campiz, Quills of Fire, will appear in November 2009. Currently she edits writers' profiles for and

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