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Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite
Thomas Kudla’s poetry is fresh, inventive, playful, wise, insightful, musical, revealing (in the particular way that only simple questions, simply asked, can be), and always engaging. In Commencement, Kudla leads his reader through an abecedary of poetic observations, followed by similar riffs based on numbers, colors, directions, senses, and who-what-when-where-why-how questions designed to stimulate and intrigue the curious mind. Commencement is aptly dedicated to the teachers in Kudla’s life; consequently, the entire collection is laced with enough mythological, mathematical, scientific, and cultural references to make any educator proud.
Kudla approaches the world with the eyes of a wanderer well schooled in Socratic questioning - his observations lead always to more questions, reflecting the true nature of quality education and meaningful interaction with a world full of wonders. In addition, there is a deliciously terse Ogden Nash-esque feel to many of the selections, which invariably brings a chuckle and a shake of the head. Musing upon “Oedipus” in the abecedary section of the manuscript, Kudla offers, simply: “Too complex/to think about.” This hallmark brevity of wit weaves its way through Commencement like a thread of spun gold, and the effect is always enchanting. Nothing charms and delights so completely as a talented, introspective poet who does not take himself too seriously.
Many of the poems in Commencement are arranged to evoke a mood or create a picture. In the “X” section of the text, the words intersect to form the letter X and somehow, miraculously, manage to do so in a way that is neither trite nor cloying. This is the mark of a true poet and a gifted visionary. Thomas Kudla’s Commencement is a wonderful diversion for anyone who truly loves words and wordplay.