Review of Larry Rogers in Green Hill Literary Lantern

Joe Benevento, poet, novelist, and long-time editor of the Green Hills Literary Lantern reviewed Larry Rogers' Live Free Or Croak in the new issue of GHLL,  Volume 28, 2017.  The article is titled "A Quick Look at Five New Poetry Books."


We’ve never had a Larry Rogers poem grace the pages of GHLL, but his Live Free or Croak comes from a local Kirksville based press and once I had the opportunity to get a look at it, I was anxious to share the word about its publication with our readers. As B.C. Hall says, “Sometimes one picks up a little book and finds a gem, somewhat like stumbling across a forty carat diamond in a potato patch. Reading Rogers’ Live Free or Croak is very much like that.”     A poet/songwriter who grew up primarily “in a potting shed trailer in the piney woods of west central Arkansas,” Rogers   is an honest, rural-based poet who still has a lot more to offer than homespun humor and wisdom (though he has that too).     These are poems whose topics range from the Vietnam war, to rueful childhood memories to family to trying to stay solvent and sane in a sometimes absurd world, and all of them are consistent in their authenticity of place.     Still, it’s the understated, wry humor of many of the poems that most captures me.

One poem that showcases Rogers’s skills is simply entitled “Spring.”     Its opening lines: “A stripper has moved/into the neighborhood,” are certainly attention grabbers, but the rest of the poem surprises in its lack of sensationalism.     This woman ends her daily walk with a stop at the speaker’s home “to discuss gardening/ with my wife.” This woman “lives quietly,” “washes her Cadillac/ every three days.”     The speaker has no leering interest in the “beautiful redhead,” but instead lets her know that the hair from his “old man’s beard,” which she observes him shaving outside, “Mixed with/ mud and straw…” “makes a fine/ bird’s nest.”     The poem ends with his prediction coming true, as “two industrious robins/ had swooped down/ and claimed/ the little pile/ of silver.” The gentle self-deprecation and quiet symbolism of that image makes the whole poem more of an insight into our life cycles than anyone had a right to expect from its opening lines.     This poem thereby is an apt representative of the collection as a whole, which also offers a reader far more than he’d come to expect at first glance.