by Roger Zotti
The connection between poetry, truth and life, in “Travel in My Borrowed Lives” (Arcade Publishing), is one aspect Donald Everett Axinn hopes readers take from his latest volume. “Societies have always needed artists to draw attention to the truth,” Donald said. “Sometimes it’s unsettling and sometimes populations don’t want to recognize it. But the poet tells stories, paints pictures, and creates sound and music with words [as a way] of looking at truth”
In “Travels” Donald brings together a diverse selection of his best work since 1978. More specifically, in his “Author’s Note” he tells us, “The poems presented in this volume are the winners in an arduous contest as to which ones would make the cut. I apologize to the ‘losers…’” Also, Donald authored two novels. One of them, “Spin,” was made into a motion picture in 2003.
Like many other poets, Donald writes for himself. He explores and examines, “I attempt to find a peace with things I don’t understand.” Poets don’t accept “everything that is out there. Art – poetry – fails if it doesn’t make a point, expose something… or create something. I want to shine a spotlight on reality. Sometimes it’s positive, sometimes it’s tragic, sometimes it’s objectionable.”
As for approaching and reading poetry, Donald said, “First of all, have a drink.” He paused and added, “Reading or listening to poetry is an opportunity to look at something you haven’t looked at the same way before. What I want people to do with poetry is give it a chance, because I think you’ll find fulfillment and pleasure.” Then Donald asked me to turn to “Countries We Choose to Visit.” And he read it and it came to life. That’s what happens, you see, when a poet reads aloud from his own work. The poem begins: “Let’s consider the country/ called Guilt,/ That land where we need to embrace masochisms/ So we can punish ourselves/ We try to believe that we can discard our/ dirty deeds/ And pull a blanket of redemption over us.” One of my favorites is “Pilot After Flying Through A Storm.” Donald, a longtime pilot, writes: “I want you to study this man carefully, / Landed after a tumultuous battle. / …I want you to ask him how he learned / to catch bolts of lightning and spears of ice, / turn them into victory then laughter.”
By the way, and I found this refreshing and interesting, Donald writes his poems on an old Sears typewriter. “Beverly, my secretary/assistant, takes what I write and puts it on her computer,” he said. “When I write I want to see the blank page…. I just hope typewriter ribbons will always be available.”
One true test of a work of art is whether it makes readers want more and Donald Everett Axinn’s eloquent “Travel in My Borrowed Lives” passes that test. In exploring so many wide-ranging subjects, Donald’s poetry – so truthful and universal – enables readers to explore themselves and others.