Review: “Barrier Beach Back Country The Poems”

“Barrier Beach Back Country The Poems”
By Tom Stock
Allbook Books $11
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In his second volume of poetry, Tom Stock expresses his love and appreciation for the natural wonders of Fire Island. Involved in the Long Island environmental and outdoor education community for decades, he has had plenty of time to immerse himself in the island that “launched him out of a major midlife crisis.” The poems are introspective, yet there’s no lofty language that leaves a reader thinking, ‘What did he mean by that?’ In a conversational, free verse style, Stock supplies readers with recognizable imager as he shares his affection for the barrier beaches.

Meditations on wind and water are front and center and Stock’s knowledge of the plant life appears in droplets of salt that “land on the shrubs/during strong onshore winds/trim them like a landscape crew.” Beach Grass “tunnels under the sand/with nodes that grow new blades/to form a network that holds sand in place/during strong nor’easters.”

One of the tenets of poetry is to use as few words as possible to express a thought, and Stock is true to the form. If you ever wondered how the Atlantic Ocean came to be, skip the course on oceanography and read, “Brief History of the Atlantic Ocean.” He gives the class in 15 lines. Talk about zeroing in on a subject, poet Stock takes the time to ponder on a minuscule grain of sand once under a glacier, “tumbled and smoothed by rushing melt-water/the constant pounding of crashing breakers/bounced and abraded into soft, silky beach.”

Stock displays his sense of humor on “The Nude Beach,” where he finds “A colony of hauled-out walruses/mostly older folk/who want a fully
body tan/and plenty of vitamin D.”

Unlike the dreaded traffic to the island that Stock likens to “a thin stream of sand falling through an hourglass,” you’ll enjoy his poems; they flow at a pleasant clip.

The collection is supplemented with photographs and drawings, some supplied by the author.