Robert D. Grappel

Reviewed by: Allison Walker

“The poems in this book came to me as gifts,” author Robert Grappel explains in his collection of poetry, aptly titled “Gifts.” His description is remarkably accurate. Each poem is a small prize to be treasured by the reader.

Grappel explains that he writes poetry while traveling and the poems contained in this collection came to him, “almost fully formed in my consciousness – I had only to write them down before they could vanish back into the void where beauty is born.” Grappel’s collection captures these moments of inspiration with grace and finesse. With each poem, the poet invites his readers into this space where beautiful things bloom from the unconscious mind. From the first poem to the last, Grappel takes readers with him on his travels and on a journey through the depths of human emotion and timeless beauty of the natural world.

Taking a departure from the ordinary, Grappel journals a short prelude to each piece to explain what inspired the poem, perhaps a Biblical story, or a snowstorm, or a bus tour through some foreign country. It’s unusual for a poetry collection but each little journal entry introduces the poem which follows. It makes them more personal. Plus, it’s just plain fun to read about Grappel scribbling out a poem in the margins of a map when struck with the verse.

The poet’s own description of these poems as gifts is strikingly accurate. They are intelligent, profound, and at times, deeply moving. For example, the poem “The Evolution of Fear,” written about the Galapagos Islands, is beautiful in its delivery but haunting in its message. “Too stupid to flee when man arrived,” Grappel writes of the animals who evolved without predators on this tiny island gem, “You gave yourself freely to the whaler and the pirate.” In the poem, the animals live fearlessly on “a remnant of Eden” until man arrives to hunt them. When man leaves, “no one makes them afraid.” It’s as though Grappel has plucked these poems from the crystalline water, polished them, and presents them to the world. In his own words, “wrapping these gifts in shiny paper and tying them with a silken bow.”

One of the standout qualities of Gifts is the poet’s keen observation of the natural world. Even when describing for example, a man-made building, Grappel reminds his readers of the profound connection between the human spirit and the environment. Whether he’s describing “a 12th century church in Braunschweig, Germany” or “Sand…/ Mixed with Adriatic salt/ Watered with the craftsman’s tears/ Fired in the furnace heat/ Of a Venetian summer,” Grappel’s poetry evokes a sense of wonder and reverence for the world around us. The imagery he conjures is vivid and often breathtaking, painting pictures with words which linger in the mind long after the page has been turned. Gifts, by Robert Grappel, is a poetic treasure trove to be cherished and shared. In his forward, Grappel writes to his readers, “I hope you enjoy them.” But how could we not?