Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar

Sonny kennerSonny Kenner’s Red Guitar. Kevin Rabas, 2013.

ISBN-13: 978-0-9795844-6-6, 6″ x 9″, $12.




Kevin Rabas’s collection of earthy, sensual and wide-ranging poems speaks with simplicity and familiarity at times and sings to us in riffs of harmonic blues. These poems, which can start with seemingly ordinary backdrops, manage to show us something of a raging, human heart, raging for intensity and raging for connection. The stories and pictures of Rabas’s poems make big discoveries in little things. These discoveries sometimes jar us, sometimes soothe us, but always leave us with an emotional pulsing that, like the music he so often writes of, “tows us out to sea.”    ~ Marvin Jaffe, Author of Point of Departure.

Kevin Rabas writes in a voice for our century. From his first dedicatory poem, “For the Estranged,” adddressed “to the ones with five string guitars who / play and save for that snapped sixth string,” we are treated to a tour de force of moments and people on the edges and in-between. Rabas’s spot-on portraits of jazz musicians, writers and artists, friends and awkward lovers flow one poem into the next coalescing in a Whitmanesque whole, a sweet and bitter song of our humanity in a language working, as Frost admonished, “easy in the harness.” Of the quarter note triplets in a Mingus tune, Rabas writes, “that sadness has lift.” So too do the striking poems in Sonny Kenner’s Red Guitar.

This book is like being at a wonderful party where you know only a few of the people but get caught up in the conversation, in the music, in whatever is happening, and before you know it morning is almost here and you’re still here, too, in the energetic intimacy of the continuous present. Rich with characters who show up a memorable once, or reappear like the couple you met last year at the same bar – there they are, still together! – these poems arrive. Rabas writes narrative as if it’s part of a jazz song, a sudden fillip of melody, while somewhere off in the margin the drums hold things together. You can’t help joining in, nodding, turning each page.   ~ Elizabeth Dodd, Author of Horizon’s Lens.

Not only do these poems flourish with sensuality, they sing with what makes poetry most important: compassion. Rabas brings kindness to reality, splendor to simple moments, and music to life.   ~ Matthew Porubsky, Author of Ruled by Plato.

Rabas knows the American Midwestern sub-suburban / small town / back roads experience down to the very fiber of that rough fabric (damn-near to the sub-atomic level). He knows the jazz afflicted kid’s big dreams of big cities, bright lights and decent paying gigs and that those dreams usually lead us to places we never imagined. He knows what it is to be on the business end of Love’s wind-up haymaker to the heart and what it means to really ache and moan late at night for those lost moments that always seem to come back to us as “could have / should have / too little, too late, too bad.” Most importantly, Rabas knows the ancient, tribal, hoo-doo secrets of distilling all of these things into the bracing after-dinner liquer of PO-try. He’s also a hell of a nice guy. He even let me crash at his place once. Still gives me a strange look out of the corner of his eye, to this day.   ~ Jason Ryberg, Author of Down, Down and Away.