Book Review: Running At Night by Ned Randle

Running at Night, coming out on April 1st, is an anthology from journeyman-poet Ned Randle. The anthology spans Ned’s work from 1976 to 2012. In part, the book pulls from Randle’s previous publications, including his chapbook Prairie Shouting and Other Poems. Running at Night showcases the poet’s range and exhibits the impressive skill set that he has amassed through the years.

The anthology intricately explores and exposes the narrator’s truths as it hits many of its highpoints. The frequent use of hard-edge tone and topics sets Randle apart from many of his fellow poets. His excellent use of sound, parallelism, and imagery, while constructing plain-spoken though complicated worlds with each poem displays the years of work the poet has put into his craft. His use of insightful, jarring line breaks coupled with an uncanny control of mood also comes to the forefront in the book.

Not only does Randle use straight and slant alliteration and line breaks to ladder sound across several lines, but he achieves the same connecting effect with ideas through word choice.  Accessing multiple meanings, Randle’s words call to each other across several lines. An excellent example of this interesting technique may best be seen in the first poem in the collection, Churchill’s Black Dog.

foot, in the dark the

only light being

the beckoning flame

the pyre behind

Here “dark,” “light,” “flame,” and “pyre” create an interesting quartet singing out with one voice.

Randle chooses not to use a few tools; juxtaposition does not seem to be one of his favored poetic devices. Generally, the poems in this collection are intricate and sophisticated, though very occasionally they become overwrought. The reader may find The Fisherman to be one such instance. Additionally he has the ability to use vivid imagery to great effect, but occasionally fails to do so. At times this choice makes the imagery he does use all the more effective and other times it can leave a poem flat. Those moments do not last long. Turn a page and the reader will find a gem.

In Graveside, a poem quoted on the back of Running at Night, a disjointed turn in the poem shakes and disturbs the reader just in time to assist in unpacking some of the poem’s meaning. Randle’s use of an irreverent sense of humor, on display throughout the book, is near its height as he successfully tackles the ideas of faith and religion during the five poem series titled Liturgy.

More than one or two poems have their awkward moments, making questionable choices, going down paths the reader rather not see the poem go, but then perhaps the issue lays within the reader not the poem. The momentum of the book occasionally escapes as a few pedestrian pieces appear, but it happens infrequently enough to write it down to personal preference.

For this reader, the emotional highlight of the book comes in the poem To My Wife who Patiently Taught.  Randle’s raw edge is applied to narrator in self-deprecation that makes the reader appreciate the allowances given by intimacy.  It’s a kick in the chest for anyone who has been lifted beyond themselves by a partner.

A few of the final poems are not as strong as the beginning selections, but the collection ends on a high note. The title poem, Running at Night is the last poem of the book. It leaves the reader wanting more.  Running at Night is more than worth the reader’s time. It would be a good addition to anyone’s library of poetry.

Running at Night

By Ned Randle

Coffeetown Press

978-1-60381-164-4 (Trade Paper)

978-1-60381-165-1 (eBook)

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