By Dave Morrison

Juke Books, 2014

76 pages, trade paperback, $14.95

One of midcoast Maine’s heartiest poetic beats in recent years has belonged to Dave Morrison, of Camden, and his ninth collection, “Stethoscope,” builds on the evocative, good-humored monitoring of everyday life that characterizes his previous books.

Morrison’s little narratives and vignettes from the street have long been his forte, and this book expands the trove. In “Barely Stand It,” the first dozen lines offer a description of a “long-limbed and summer-fresh” young woman who “throws back / her head and laughs and I / fall in love.” The little love story then instantly lofts the feeling beyond a simple response to a pretty face, as the speaker of the poem next describes, with amazement, falling in love also with the young man she’s with, then with “an elderly man in a / bucket hat,” a delivery guy and a Lab on a leash, and finally “I fall in love with / my own pulse.”


In other hands this might seem uncomfortably contrived, but Morrison’s characteristic self-deprecating humor, enthusiasm and clarity of expression give the strong impression that these are actual emotions living in his blood. If you can’t state an idea simply, Einstein once said, it means you don’t understand it. Morrison’s lines, diction and apprehensions always go right to the heart of the matter:

This poem has no value

other than pleasure, like

skipping a stone or

singing in the car or

cooking a meal or


sculpting beach sand.

Few poets — or people — participate so fully in the cosmic awe and bewilderments that Dave Morrison maintains naturally all the time. And fortunately for us, he’s trained his ear to record its pulse and amplify it with a warm and reliable down-home virtuosity. In “Stethoscope,” his poetic powers have achieved their strongest beat so far.

Morrison, also an accomplished rock and roll guitarist and vocalist of decades past, will read from “Stethoscope” at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, at the Camden Opera House. The book is available through his website

Dana Wilde writes the Backyard Naturalist column for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel and keeps the Parallel Uni-Verse website for Maine poetry at You can contact him at [email protected].

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