Running at Night – Collected Poems 1976-2012

Book Information

ISBN: 978-1603811644
Publisher: Coffeetown Press
Genre: Poetry
Price: $10.95
Available at: Amazon

Book Description

This collection includes fifty-nine poems written over the past thirty-three years of the poet’s life. Says Randle, “Poetry is the dry distillation of feelings that produces a tangible product to be shared with others. Although the process requires a very high heat and is not without risk, it is worthwhile when readers tell you they can feel the residual warmth rising from the page holding a poem they really like.”

Praise for Running at Night

In recognizably American fashion, [Randle’s poems] reach from the ground on which he lives to dreams earned and known.
- Mark Lofstrom, Hawaii Literary Arts Council

Running at Night …is a courageous book of witnessing. It takes the reader through dark paths on fast foot. The poems are written with a sure hand, the images right, the word choice sharp, the line breaks masterful as in this passage of “Misplacedˮ:

 

There are times when we misplace our hearts—
misplace, not lose like one might lose
his head in love or lust or anger.
Misplace—carelessly resting it in a place
it should not have been set
and then forgetting it like an empty cup
or pair of worn shoes until the emptiness inside the
forsaken heart aches, like the cup aches for the heat
of the coffee and the shoe for the warmth of
the friendly foot…

 

It’s hard to pull off a collection of poems with so many shifts in tone, but Randle succeeds because the scenarios are so compelling, and because his language and images and references are so rich. The transformation of the commonplace—this phrase came to me repeatedly as I read this collection.

These carefully crafted poems cohere into a meditation about our relationship to life that speaks truly about how we learn about ourselves and how knowledge transforms our lives.
It is hard to stop quoting from this book. On every page there is a passage I want to share. “Gravesideˮ is truly a tour-de-force, though I am partial to it, but to quote only part of it would not do it justice…

 

Kneeling unsteadily near the headstone
he unfolds the clean cotton handkerchief
from his breast pocket and carefully cleans
the lenses of his eyeglasses, wiping
away the loess of their past life as fine
and dry as powdered bone.
The thought of her
under the freshly turned earth so weighty
that it bends time under its mass, curves light,
warps reason.
Surveying adjacent plots
nestling restless aroused souls close by,
nearly hip to hip and thigh to thigh,
pressing obscenely against her on each
side, ghostly frottage in a vulgar crowd.
He conjures up a prayer but lets it fall
unspoken onto the sod, into the
soil, jealously hating heaven after
death where strange souls are urged to love his love,
and briefly hoping for hell for her, where
no love survives the crucible, where she
melts in the heat of his lust forever.

 

While some collections consist of a series of closely related poems, with a common subject or theme or form, or a narrative arc that connects all the poems, others offer a wide variety of settings and subjects, where each poem comes as a surprise, where the reader finds themselves in unexpected places and new situations. The latter is what Randle offers us through winding directions, the darkest of places, the freshness of life.
- Ariana D. Den Bleyker, award-winning poet and editor, Emerge Literary Journal

How, then, do our verse writers adapt and evolve in this tumultuous time when, it might be argued, they are needed most? Looking at Ned Randle’s collection of one quarter century’s worth of poetry, we catch more than glimpses – we ride along an avenue bustling with all of us – and a storyteller who sees us in the manner we need to, if not necessarily wish to, be seen – our present tense.

I step lively
off the curb with a shrug
feigning a failed remembrance.
He peeks out from my past now
matted and coarse under the crown of
his grimy cap, I look away
to disabuse him of any notions
-- Liturgy (page 7)

 

Yes, for they who toil over rhythm and soul work for us, and there is no respite when this (and by *this* do we mean just the poet, or by proxy, by association, by kith and kindred and heart, do we mean each and every one of us who has that little spark of a couplet inside?) is the path one chooses:

You could have lived the quiescent life
yet like the glistening gold dandelion
in the tender fist of a child
you pick the most favored fragile flower
the most favored yellow rose
-- The Poet (page 14)

 

Thus, when we read through Running at Night, we are reminded that while we all feel each and every of these illustrious emotions, it is still a gift to know how to pull forth the words to describe them. This is why writers such as Ned Randle are so integral in this day and age – and we ought honor that gift. We honor such gifts to help lift the poet’s burden as the poet lifts our own:

Aged, finding it more
troublesome to keep them
together I rise and
don the tired cardigan
and go about raking
my memories into
a mound where they lie in
a friable heap, each
as indistinct as leaves
-- Memory (page 84)

 

As reviewers, we are somewhat trained to believe we need to have something profound to say about a book, and look for all sorts of New Yorker-esque ways to abstractly tie up the piece as if we, ourselves, are the writers upon whom the spotlight is shining. But, one realizes, over time, that the point of a review, while possibly to provide slight bridges between the questioning audience and the place where the hands can reach the book, it is more important to step out of the way and let the author speak for themselves – in a manner that teases and tempts, lures and allures, with their own words. What better way to end, then, than with the last words of the book, that while they come forth from the poet, belong to us all?

 

It is a good solitude
after sunset running toward
the headlights on the highway
a mile and a half away.
He rounds the rose bush planted on
the edge of concrete and returns to
make pace with the selfless sounds of night,
-- Running at Night (page 86).

- Garbanzo Literary Journal

Ned Randle’s poetry collection Running at Night often touches upon the most humdrum aspects of life, and yet somehow Randle always manages to communicate the sheer beauty and wealth of possibilities we find in the everyday.

For example, the young kids in “Savages” who, like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, lay shirtless in the grass sharing a stolen cigarette:

 

we would suck the smoke across our juice stained 
tongues and silently stare at the cloudless 
sky thinking about the day in our future

when we would have to buy our cigarettes
and secret them in the starched shirt pocket
of a lost dream dressed nattily for death

 

The form, its unpunctuated open-endedness, is reminiscent of that endless feeling in childhood of being immortal.

Rather than romanticize, the poet isn’t afraid to show Mother Nature’s more grotesque side and knowing that side is a universal certainty to take comfort in. We see this in the repurposed hearts in “Misplaced”:

 

by the sight—someone has turned the heart 
into a dry den of sticks and straw
and the black bids inside the chambers caw.

 

[E]verything in rural Illinois finds its way back into the circle of necessity. That reassurance often requires the poet to fold a matter back on itself, turning it on its head. For instance, the reader feels the comfort of discomfort within the repetition at the close of “Insomnia”:

 

opposing forces of sun and moon
create in him a fitful soul,
a foamy neap tide in his heart,
a rise and fall, a rise and fall.

 

All these perpetuate the common thread in Running at Night that the most unlikely of places and everyday encounters are both the meat of experience and the reward in life.
- Sarah Rae, Poydras Review