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The authors of this readable collection of poems, haiku and tanka tell us it is a collaboration between two poets, David Check and John Elsberg. They say,

We have used a mix of types of poetry to try to capture scenes and moments that evoke the South Jersey Shore as we have known it.
Check wrote more of the longer poems, and Elsberg has contributed the Japanese forms and several short poems. Art is by Wayne Hogan (cover) and Harland Ristau.

A sense of place naturally pervades Check and Elsberg's collection, SOUTH JERSEY SHORE. It's a presence felt from the opening poem by Check, DINER MUSIC, through to the collection's last long poem, from HURRICANE WATCH. Between these parameters, the title SOUTH JERSEY SHORE serves as a metaphor for the range of — predominantly maritime — experiences and events the poems appraise.

The scattering of references to boats, sea and sand throughout Check's poems come as no surprise. Here we find references to food, seafood (DINER MUSIC, THE MUSSELS WERE THE BEST); a boat trip (THE BOAT TOUR); visitors to the house by the shore (SUMMER GUESTS); the boardwalk (ON THE "BOARDS") and beach poems. DINER MUSIC opens the collection with a jaunty air, where a breakfast of ketchup + eggs starts the day, and Elvis is playing on the juke box:

	Elvis over easy
	A breakfast juke
		thrusts a
		morning prayer
			of former America
	Through the shadows
		of a diner's
THE TOUR BOAT draws on Check's experience during an excursion at sea. The depiction of life on the water explores his passion for boats and the ocean:
	All aboard!
	A taste of the sea for you all!
	A hint of the sailor's lore
		and the seaman's heart!
Tone hardly varies throughout Check's poems. His sea and beach poems are persuasive and SUMMER GUESTS reveals the way family and friends drop in unexpectedly in summer, but are not keen on calling in during the winter months:
	             "Come see me some lonely winter."
	"MY God! Are you KIDDING?" WINTERtime? At the SHORE?"
	          "sure ... that's what friends are for."
But other poems hint at the freedom Check delights in. ON THE "BOARDS" voices affinity with the spirit of place:
	Yes! Here is the ritual of summer carnival!
	the season's mini-Mardi-Gras
	Rolling its electric, liquid release
	through its mass of celebrants!
JUST ANOTHER BEACH POEM plumbs similar territory. Certainly Check's sense of humour is given full sway,
	Just another beach poem
	lost in the quagmire
	of inertia's tumbling toil.
Elsewhere, poems are possessed of a thoroughly contemporary voice as in SUNSET LAKE:
	it is the true soul
	of that fallen
	echoing now
	with the sounds of the last birds
	flying back
	to distant trees
But exposure and vulnerability is evident too, as in SOME WILDWOOD SAND:
	We travel to our shores of dreams
	and touch some sand
	on the resting beach
	which lullabied our mad pursuit
	for a little while
Check's final poem from HURRICANE WATCH assumes an exquisite poignancy and tenderness as he writes about being
	Lost in the
	of unreliable
	predictions —
whilst on hurricane watch. But in part 3 of the poem, he finds that
	Gloria fizzed out,
		took a last-minute turn
		and gave us a "break" —
			'til "next time . . ."
Contrast these poems with Elsberg's incisive poems. He presents us with two long poems, AVALON BOULEVARD and THE BEACH, and four shorter ones. AVALON BOULEVARD relates the story of Elsberg's father, a sailor. The narrative moves seamlessly between past and present, where the poetic account of his father's life and the boy's school mind are in stark opposition:
				Just gone
	seventy, and in a white healthy 
	stride, he writes me a short note
	with my mother’s busy letter: the household
	keeper, as strong as ever in his
	uncomfortable lines.
There's no doubting the emphasis of Elsberg's writing. But it's also a poetry of balance; he doesn't lose sight of the humanity he shares with his family, nor his relationship with the nature he loves passionately. In THE BEACH he writes with passion, balance and strength of his involvement with sand, sun, birds, children and the wind:
	The squabbling of the gulls
		adds another side:
			but the standard of spleen
	is set so impossibly high that the challenge is seldom

	accepted — instead
		the children run
			with all the exuberance
	of finding a whole new world purely by chance.
COLLAGE (1) is a page of one- and three-line haiku about the beach and the ocean:
	cradled against the dunes
		color of bone
	sunset over the back bay    a tree turns orange
This is an elegant way to present haiku and tanka, as a kind of collage, each poem written on a similar theme, segueing seamlessly with each other.

Elsberg also writes a contemporary looking tanka of five lines in fewer than 31 syllables, each presenting a recollection of an impression made memorable within a brief span of time. But his interest is more in the mind’s response than in creating images of the external cues or prompts.

	the sleek lines
	of the schooner America
	a floating bar
	squat trawlers come and go
	further down the dock
COLLAGE (2) contains both haiku and a tanka. Again the subject is the beach and the experience of the poet among familiar haunts.
	the concrete ship
	from World War I breaks up
	so slowly
	the clearest pebbles
	are called diamonds
The haiku are precise and succinct and give the reader something to think about, as in COLLAGE (3):
	rising tide
	they finish the sand castle
	just in time
COLLAGE (4) consists of a page of haiku that begins quietly,
	moon reflecting
	on the quiet water    how distant
	the other lights
and ends with the return to shore and home,
	everything that we
	leave behind is in the wake
	the gulls keep pace
CLOSE and THE ZEN OF FISHING are mini poems that encompass the way people amuse themselves at the beach. I quote the entirety of the short poem CLOSE:
	just above
	the wet sand

	her finger
	on a passing cloud

	fingers of the sea
Two longer poems are SHORE TIME and WETLANDS. SHORE TIME is a story about the poet's father's van rusting in summer heat and finally bought by a
	young couple

	to restore it
WETLANDS is another poem about Elsberg's father. Part 1 tells us
	my father
	is slipping away
part 2 indicates that the poet now owns his father's house which
	still carries
	the hope

	of spawning
	and that special smell

	of wetlands mud
In part 3 we learn that the father is still alive among the reeds, the salty tide, the birds and fish, although
	he is not with me
The collection reads well in its parts, as well as the whole, because the poems have complementary properties that are derived from and consistently expressed in the images, location and emotive ideas associated with the sea, the coastal landscape and the characters. SOUTH JERSEY SHORE is rich in regional character, subtle nuances, and language. Affording good company with the poems, the tanka and haiku are crisp and refreshing. As the book is organised, the result is a sustained, reflective montage on the coastline with which these two poets are so familiar. These simple, yet meaningful poems show a deep love for the landscape and for the sand, sea and sun. This is a slim collection of work, and it is to be hoped that both poets will publish larger collections of their work in the future.

reviewer: Patricia Prime.