Having been inside a glass house recently when G. Murray Thomas wrote a "you're not trying hard enough" review of my 2008 chapbook yellow tree red sky, I'll try to tread carefully.
For those who don't know who SoCal poet Rick Lupert is, this useful website will provide an introduction: http://www.poetrysuperhighway.com/
Continuing to speak neutrally, I can say that Rick, at his best when hosting poetry readings or performing his own work, has the kind of quick wit and ability to "read the room" that would certainly overshadow some alleged comedians.
And Rick, in recent years, has decided to take advantage of his professional likability and give readers a series of "how I see the rest of the physical world" observational poetry volumes.
In the past, this approach gave us the good, memorable "I'm in Israel" FEEDING HOLY CATS; now, it delivers another "I'm in Europe" tome called WE PUT THINGS IN OUR MOUTHS.
I now know enough about the craft of writing poetry to not say that Rick doesn't try (or try hard enough) when he writes his wry, no-longer-than-a-page poems (which sometimes depend on their titles for full humorous impact).
But it might be best for Rick to declare a moratorium on continuing his "funny travel poet" niche (or "brand" as the young people say nowadays) and consider being more consistently well-rounded in his choice of subjects (a recent piece on mortality he submitted to the BLUE JEW YORKER was quite funny and poignant at the same time). The on-the-road formula, loved by Rick's fanbase, may not seem so fresh here to those previously unacquainted with his poetry.
To give an example of one of the better poems in MOUTHS, here's a few lines from "Giant Wooden Shoe Couple":
Everybody already took pictures
in the giant wooden shoe at the first stop.
The giant shoe here sits lonely and unphotographed.
Maybe this second giant wooden shoe
is married to the first one and they just
work in different places.
Too often, there are two-to-four line poems that vary from flat to moderately funny--and depending on the titles to carry them across the finish line.
And there's not enough of the more serious pieces where Rick's gift for brevity works for the subjects and expands their emotional impact. Two of the best here are "To Anne Frank" and "Oh Amsterdam".
To be fair to Rick, he has altered his persona with the years to where he and wife Addie (a sometimes-supporting character in some of the pieces) now remind one of the younger George Burns and a smart, wise variant of Gracie Allen.
One just wishes, though, that he'll move on a bit from travel-as-subject and concentrate more on the everyday world and life as a suburban husband and father. Some of his best work--past and present--have come from these subjects.
Maybe someday, he'll again fill a book the size of WE PUT THINGS IN OUR MOUTHS with poems of that nature.