What I’m Reading: Duramen Rose

Every now and again, you stumble onto something special. Something you weren’t really looking for, but that once you find it you can’t imagine having gone without. This week I hit on one of those things. A true gem hidden in plain sight.

I’m talking about a book titled Duramen Rose which was published by Andrew Roberts a year ago.

I met Andrew for a week back in 2017, I think it was, when I was out at the Writers of the Future event, and he was a prizewinner. I recall his warmth, and his generosity, and the feeling he gave out that he was at least a little surprised to be there. Grateful that one of his works was “good enough” (very dangerous phrase there) to warrant his trip to Los Angeles. From that time on, I’ve followed him on Facebook and often been impressed with the odd bits of poetry he posts on a routine basis.

That’s a thing about Andrew, you see. He’s a poet and, as far as I can tell, I mean that totally. You can only go so far with a one-week encounter, but if I had my guess, his entire life has been lived to the beat of an epic poem of sorts. Or maybe I’m just going too far. I don’t know. But that’s the mood I’m in right now. It’s a mood I get when I read something like this.

Here’s what I know for certain, though. Andrew Roberts can really, really write.

Duramen Rose is a 240-page epic poem told in free verse but saying that is just not enough.

I saw a post from Andrew noting it was out there, and on a random lark, I read the Amazon “Look inside” preview. From word one, I knew I was buying it. Fair warning: It’s not a happy story. It’s a World War I story, told from the closest point of view possible to tell a World War I story from. Reading it, though…I mean…It’s like Kurt Vonnegut’s sensibility ran into Walt Whitman’s psyche. Or not. I’m sorry, really I am. I wish I had the skill to give a real analysis, but unlike Roberts, I am not skilled or versed in poetry. What I am is a total fan of this piece of work, and all I can do is tell you what the experience of reading it was like for me.

Duramen Rose is beautiful and ugly and devastating and uplifting and … sigh.

There were times I simply forgot I was reading free verse. Times the shape of the piece itself formed the aura of the moment. Times I did not want to know what happened next, but had to move on, and others when I did not want the book to end, but, again, had to continue.

If you are someone who appreciates military stories, you need to read this book. If not, well, you need to read it anyway.

So, yeah. Read this book.

Find the right time and place for you and read this book.

When you do, you’ll know this: Andrew Roberts belonged in Los Angeles, perhaps more than any other writer there. The guy can really, really write.

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