Pondering Someone else’s Life | Review of “Calm Jazz Sea” by Mike Barnes (1996) Brick Books.


While I have been exploring other people’s realities through my reading lately, I find it a joy to come back to somebody whom I can clearly relate to. Recently that has been the words of Mike Barnes in his book Calm Jazz Sea.

Confusion Is Always Greatest Before It Ends (Page 22)

What is an orange?

but a taste that takes root in our eyes

a colour balanced in our nostrils

a smell that squeezes juice down our throat

It cannot be understood

nor likened to anything

he said as he bit

serenely and confidently

into an apple

Barnes deals with all sorts of subjects – from the everyday mundane items to the heart-aching details of romance.

A Short Psycho-Sexual History (Page 25)

She married

the first man who would have her,

a myope named Ed.

When he left her

she married Bob, a hamburger waiter.

He called sex The Daily Special

It, too, was fast and greasy.

After their divorce

she found solace for a time

in a handful of coloured

pills, strange men

who used her like Kleenex

Next came an English lecturer

Love resembled a term paper

improperly footnoted.

When he went

She found six feet of rope

looped over a copper pipe

in the laundry room.

But Death, too, gave way

and dropper her on some sheets

While there is a bit of quirkiness to his writing, there is a bit of seriousness to his writing. It is a great mix of ‘ha-ha’ and ‘hmm’ in these poems.

November Poem (Page 56)

I’m getting into drinking more

(they are asking me why)


and not talking to anyone

(they are asking me why  not)


sitting by my window with a beer and

the visual:

the audible:

and the squirrels outside wrestling with the ground

for food


and the November leaves


I know I am saying no

I’m not sure but I think I am also saying


It sometimes takes a couple of reads to understand what Barnes is saying, but there is a deep reason in his words.

Calm Jazz Sea (Page 31)

Four tiny fish

slip from the

sea shake hooks

out of their

mouths that glint

and glance under

water then dive

When they leave

the mind is

bloody with waves

Calm Jazz Sea by Mike Barnes is thought-provoking and sometimes quirky read, but it is worth the time to do.

Link to Mike Barnes’ Blog

Link to Brick Books’ page for “Calm Jazz Sea”


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