Songs for Diana is a personal letter one might be lucky enough to receive from a close friend or confidant. At the very least it is a letter to be cherished. It staggers me each time I read these poems because they remind me of a letter I found in a suitcase among my mother’s things, a letter I was unable to put down because it said so much about the past and my personal reality. I am also reminded of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations where Marcus writes, “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” Searl finds strength in his vocation, a college professor in the rust belt, of all places, Buffalo, NY. He takes us through a most catastrophic event, the birth, life and early death of a severely retarded child, for which the pain still lingers, all in a city that hazes its inhabitants with snow, ice and howling wind. These epistles cry for connection, always compassionate and kind, yet sparked by rage and diffidence, and this is precisely why they work, because it is our pain and suffering, and our awkwardness around it, that so deeply connects us.
The author pulls no punches. We are never cast aside by pretense. We are always invited in. I read a couple of these poems last night before bed and I was surprised where they took me. The only word that accurately describes what I felt is delicious, like something bittersweet that is odd and new, that sustains and lingers. These poems call me back and leave me wanting more. At first it seems as if the author is rambling through his life, a discussion of the past and how the past connects him to his present, but ironically my critical judgment is suspended, when for reasons better known to the poet than to me, I emerge a different person than the one who went in. I am dumbfounded and refreshed. I find myself relaxed and self-assured.
In this energetic age of hand-held devices, instant transmission and video I still find reading most rewarding. And no spoiler alert here because every reader will come away with something different when they read Stan Searl’s poems. The abbreviation for Buffalo is BUF and in this work the author is stripped naked, emotionally raw and pure in the Blakean sense, in the buff. He never takes his foot off the accelerator as we drive with him along the treacherous New York State Thruway. Through particulars of love and work in Buffalo the author astonishes the reader with highly imaginative, meditative, provocative and life altering themes.
Lawrence Spann, Ph.D., Poet and Writer