Monkey Screams – What a Reviewer Says

Posted on August 22, 2015


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Format: Paperback

This, Stout’s second full-length poetry volume, is divided into three main sections each containing a set of revelations but all concerning in greater or lesser degree the ways in which our government supports or fails to support its citizens and disillusion at the core of our society. Through a series of vivid images and forceful dialog, Stout serves up late 20th century America for us to chew and digest.

The book’s first section deals with Stout’s time in Viet Nam. He sets up his premise in the first poem, “Hero,” in which a soldier about to receive a Purple Heart reflects upon what he will tell his parents of the ceremony, and events leading up to it, that will spare them the horrors of war. He also considers the major, standing among legless Marines, who has puffed out his chest to receive a medal for wounds received “when rocks—not shrapnel—bruised his legs and shin.” This is Viet Nam from a soldier’s point of view—not only the constant sweltering, constant fear, body count, but also the screw ups in supply lines, lack of intelligence (in both senses), selective news coverage, profiteering, and profound lack of humanity and respect for indigenous people. In the background, always, monkeys scream from the trees. Very visceral.

In the second section, Stout relates lives of American citizens, personal narratives of people like the man next door, an old classmate, someone you run into repeatedly at the neighborhood grocery. They are teachers, nurses, telephone installers. Each relates a bit about himself, how life is going, and how his dreams have moved out of reach. Again, it demonstrates weaknesses in our government and in our society.

In the final section, Stout becomes meditative. He reflects on his past as a husband and a writer, discusses the present—living alone in Mexico in a small apartment. He looks back on successes and failures, making an uneasy truce with the present and contemplating the future, always writing and rewriting. This book is a fascinating trip through late 20th century America designed to make the reader think, and rethink, his complacency.

Posted in: Poetry