AmericanMental: poems by Mike Jurkovic, reviewed by Ken Holland

AmericanMental by Mike Jurkovic; Luchador Press, 2020

ISBN-10: 1952411157; ISBN-13: 978-1952411151

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble; Autographed copy & CD package:

Mike Jurkovic’s latest collection is yet another step of refinement in his craftsmanship.  Much has been made of some of Jurkovic’s antecedents, particularly with regard to the Beat poets.  But that influence is here channeled through the portal of the twenty-first century, and through the portal of Jurkovic’s broad lens of what catches his passion.  His storytelling talent runs through so many of these poems, and it’s his ability to spin a narrative that’s as much responsible for engaging the reader as is the topic of any given poem.  The trajectory of his words and images provide the propulsion that arc throughout these pieces with what I would call controlled chaos.  Particularly effective is his creation of a mythic American town which makes its dark appearance in a number of poems, cunningly interspersed throughout the collection.  From the walls of American culture and society, Jurkovic wipes off the grime, holds the cloth up to our eyes, and insists we look at it. 

What further enhances “AmericanMental,” however, are works of intimacy and gentleness that bring balance, as well as unexpected breadth, to his voice.  Such poems as “Tell Them, My Love” soften the tone and provide a redeeming expression of how Jurkovic views the human experience.   Also illustrative of this capacity is the poem, “because maybe,” whose stanzas each start with the same wording, and, for purposes of this review, I’m taking the liberty of distilling down to:  “Live long enough and the plot becomes apparent…Live long enough and the people implore you to pray for them…Live long enough and the choice becomes abuse or entertainment…Live long enough and you tire of doing. This./But maybe that’s how this…passes: In service to/someone/in need…To someone you/saw as a stranger.”

From tender philosophy to pipe-bomb throwing confessionals, “AmericanMental” commands the reader’s attention and respect. Reviewed by Ken Holland, Award-winning poet and Pushcart nominee

Mike Jurkovic: President, Calling All Poets, New Paltz, Beacon, NY. Titles include Blue Fan Whirring, (Nirala Press, 2018); smitten by harpies & shiny banjo catfish (Lion Autumn Press, 2016) Music features and CD reviews appear in All About Jazz, Van Wyck Gazette, and Maverick Chronicles. Tuesday night host of Jazz Sanctuary, WOOC 105.3 FM, Troy, NY. He loves Emily most of all.

Mike Jurkovic

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