NEVER TOO OLD TO FEEL USEFUL
What is this aging, this not so subtle settling of body?
In Useful Feeling, Dean Olson's new poetry collection, he writes in an active and accessible voice about growing old. Some of his new poems are friendly and humorous. Pharmacy House appreciates the smorgasbord of meds available to older people (including Levitra, which he calls the heavy armor). When Blouses Opened celebrates the pleasure of remembering youthful discovery and romance.
Other poems in the collection treat widely shared physical aspects of age in a less humorous but still compassionate and understandable way. The Old Ones Never Stand Straight captures the plight of an older working man: I don't see how he can hold on until social security kicks in. The retirement goalposts keep moving. He will wear out before he can rest.
Many of Olson's poems are tributes to his father, a hard-working logger, who never put his arm around me. I'm left with the soft sound of his voice, the smell of him at the kitchen table or in the barn.
I carry around what I've gathered, hoping the sum of his life lengthens with the sound of birds, the scent of fresh-cut wood or seeing how a man works when he knows how to use his body.
In Useful Feeling, Dean Olson, a poet of the Pacific Northwest, tells us a lot about nature, especially birds and the sea. He tells us about courtship and relationship. He tells us about living and about dying. In so doing, he tells us much about himself. Reading his poems, we spend time with a working man who values being useful. And now, as he ages, he finds that his usefulness is in the valuable work of writing.
Dean Olson has published nine poetry collections. He taught at universities in Hong Kong, Alaska, and Canada, and is emeritus faculty of The Evergreen State College, where he led seminars in economics, cultural studies, and maritime history. He has sailed the Galapagos Islands, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Alaska, and spent months with students on the Salish Sea. He lives in Olympia, Washington near his children and grandchildren. His poems have appeared in Cascade #2, Prairie Schooner, Minotaur, Rattle, Atlanta Review, Windfall, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, vox poetica, unbound CONTENT, and elsewhere.