Old Man Laughing

Review of Old Man Laughing

On Old Man Laughing:

“If a great man has the heart of a child, Bob King is one of those who seems to have reversed the aging process by growing “greater” and greater as time has passed. He is also the rarest kind of poet, especially now. The strength of his work comes from the originality of his thought rather than any pyrotechnical devices. His work is inspired by the things that are the most fundamental to being human. But the emphasis is not upon the lowest common denominators. He somehow manages to remember the highest and purest of our common denominators and to make these available to us again in ways that remind us that human life can be a thing of beauty and joy to contemplate.”

--Jeffrey Ethan Lee (author of Invisible Sister)

“The entire collection feels like a musical composition—simple, yet elegant, each poem an important part of the whole, a ‘vibration’ of rueful wit and wisdom lingering.”

--Dona Stein, author of Entering the Labyrinth

If there is a bearable lightness of being, it informs and leavens the poems in Robert King’s Old Man Laughing. The poems are serious, exuberant, occasionally formal, and full of delight. They can combine the quiet spareness of ancient Chinese poetry with a wild extravagance and from the two birth a deep humanity. When you read the opening lines of “From the Book of Rope”—“First, there is love. Secondly, / the square knot”—you know a linguistic and human adventure is unfolding. The whole book is that adventure, as the flashlight of precise observation and the transformation of insight into poetry illuminates first this, then that—love, rope, music, maps, sorrow, aunts, fireflies, the accidental. From the child’s view in “What It Was Like Those Days”— “Even the dead, I thought then, / grinning as I biked around town, / were happy in their own way”—to the final lines of “Loss”—“Especially old, especially alone, / I laugh as, walking, I falter”—reading these poems will make you feel buoyant, human, and lucky.

- Veronica Patterson, author of Swan, What Shores?