“What I like about Dan Gutstein’s second book Bloodcoal & Honey is the variety of forms for each poem, while still keeping a unified text. Some poems are anecdotal, some lyrical, prose verse, classical—others close to the “language” school. The remarkable outcome is a uniform voice. There’s a common denominator throughout and it’s poetry’s old friend, loss. But seen through Gutstein’s eyes, it’s a life force, for he uses it and changes it to the good. After all, if we give up loss, what will we have left? No one likes pain but what matters is the meaning it gives us. It’s hard to overstate the many arteries death travels to be eulogized. What is important is how personal experience serves the material and how—when well done—there is a sediment of satisfaction from the raw emotion. Each poem has a trajectory, however subtle, involving event or character. Gutstein handles language beautifully under circumstances that seem unnavigatable. Instead of using grief as a field to wage battle, Gutstein introduces, in poem after poem, something we can hardly name. It’s a devotion or piety about art, the creation, something sacred that makes us want to go on.” --Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books: "Exemplars" (November 22, 2011)
Naomi Thiers’ review, in Little Patuxent Review, begins: “When I find myself unaccountably crying as I reach the end of a collection of poems, when the combined weight of the poet’s felt human presence and the loss seeping through the poems brings tears, I know something powerful is about. This happened as I read one of the last poems, “The Last Out,” in Dan Gutstein’s Bloodcoal & Honey, which I finished while on a long bus journey.” Click here for the full article, posted on July 12, 2012.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
From powerful poems of loss and mourning to the “imperfect decay” of mysterious urban landscapes where wrecking balls can turn a “dying hospital” into “a spaghetti of rebar and boxy rubble,” Gutstein’s work takes us inside a world of emotional and physical devastation. Transcendence is achieved in Bloodcoal & Honey thanks to Gutstein’s restrained and potent use of language, keen intelligence, and careful observation of interior life. —Terence Winch
In Dan Gutstein’s Bloodcoal & Honey Detective P points the poem at the reader. It's almost a film noir moment on the page. The names Warren and David haunt this collection. Gutstein’s work is dark and violent in places. Some poems tell you—“Don’t Move.” There is lyrical sorrow in this book but one will discover a love for language beneath the rain. —E. Ethelbert Miller
These poems dwell in the twin worlds of danger and beauty, the way “men sit in the space thunder rushes / to fill” while “a hundred tomatoes [twinkle] on the vine.” Gutstein describes the harrowing rhythms of loss but a tender resurgence as well, as if the metals in Bloodcoal are tempered by the curvilinear season of Honey. A book you won't forget. —Sandra Simonds