Review of The Red Buddha by B.L. Kennedy

Review of The Red Buddha
by B.L. Kennedy
The Red Buddha
Maia Penfold Hcolom Press
Ellensburg, WA
ISBN: 978-0-9776783-3-4
169 pgs

One of the hard things about being a literary critic is not always agreeing one hundred percent with your peers, be they poets or publishers. And so I come to review The Red Buddha with a kind of trepidation; there are poems in this collection that I absolutely adore. Maia Penfold is by all means an uncompromising force of electricity. My friend T.L Kryss writes that she is unique and authentic in her voice, and implores you to listen to that voice. In addition to Kryss, the poet Sharon Doubiago tells me that Penfold is a joy to discover and she belongs in the roll call of ‘beatitude’, and her poems are a natural evolution of an ancient counterculture. My dear friend John Bennett, who tirelessly promotes The Red Buddha, informs me of the unique qualities of the poet’s work. In addition, Ann Menebroker has told me she had a hard time putting the book down.
I guess that there is something different with the way the poet speaks to me in this volume, because I can’t seem to connect with every syllable of every word. True, there is a unique lyrical quality that is reminiscent of that ‘special something’s something’ found in the voice of every great poet that I have read. But still, I can’t put my finger on the greatness in all of Penfold’s work. It’s like this: I like the poet, I like her voice, and I enjoy the majority of what she has to say. In fact, I would say that voice is almost symphonic; it’s like the way you walk down a city street or the way you sit and breathe among the Great Redwoods on the Northwest coast. There is a quality that I so want to write about, I can feel the heartbeat of the poet, it’s that close. Yet, I can’t seem to connect with the wisdom. I can feel Penfold’s spirit spit at heaven from a diamond tongue, I can come THAT close. And yet, there’s something very delicate, something miniscule that seems to be missing. I guess if I had to look at it in terms of music, say the difference between the polished voice of the Rolling Stones and the raw urban rants of the Ramones. There is a small something that is so wide it becomes both visible and palpable.
Can I recommend The Red Buddha? I would love to say that it is hands down one of the best books of poetry I’ve read in years. But I can’t. There is a part of me as a literary critic that simply cannot connect with the writer’s voice. I see her work as a lone spirit dancing in the wind, I hear her voice as a singular echo, and I can feel the gentle rasping of her heart. So, in the end, I will say purchase The Red Buddha, because Penfold’s voice is unique and individual.

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