TWO CAN PLAY THIS GAME: The Saturday Afternoon Poets (Published by Cyberwit, India, 2004, pp. 148, $ 15, ISBN 81-8253-011-3)
TWO CAN PLAY THIS GAME is a remarkable collection of poems by Sal Amico M.Buttaci and Paul Juszcyk, two very distinguished names associated with "The Saturday Afternoon Poets". Juszcyk's poems are 'the result of years of reflection on the human experience'. His mission as a poet is "to share a degree of my soul with my audience, letting my readers and listeners into what 'makes me tick'." Juszcyk's first poem "Epistles And Revelations" unquestionably reveals the poet's goal:
"God gave me the words, turned a prophet into a poet" (p. 12). To him poetry is not a mere intellectual display; it is a solemn and sincere business devoid of any "bluffing". He seems to be pursuing the ideal of "The Saturday Afternoon Poets": "play it straight", "no need for aces up the sleeve" (p. 15). "On Sacred Ground" is a noble expression of his hallowed emotions: "His rain a shower of baptism. I am truly born again" ( p. 20). Juszcyk is a spiritual explorer. For example, see these lines: "the angels dance among the stars", "the Holy Grail of inspiration" or "The crashing of the waves inspire thoughts of God." The poet stands "on sacred ground, glimpsing Heaven" in several poems of Two Can Play This Game, though he remembers "the tears" and "razor words", and Hell aptly described as "absence of love." The poetic world of Juszcyk is full of originality and insight in times of spiritual stress.
We find a subtle expression of the sensibility of the age in the poems of Amico M. Buttaci, co-founder of "The Saturday Afternoon Poets", along with Juszcyk. Buttaci's poems have versatile excellence placing him in the foremost rank of contemporary poets. Has the stature of poetry diminished in the postmodern era? No, affirms Buttaci in the very first poem "What A Poem Is" included in Two Can Play This Game: "don't tell me poems waste time words strung in lines like paper dolls". Poetry saves our soul, and lifts "anew those who stumble in the dark of prose." "Watch Dog" is another remarkable poem by Buttaci, where the poet tries to surmise the message of the barking dog:
Perhaps he tells the moving clouds
And the rushing water
"See how time is wise?
It passes unseen."
No doubt, we notice in this poem a simple theme concluding on a sublime note in the last two lines. Buttaci has to the highest degree the faculty of spontaneity. The especial brilliance of his genius is visible in several poems, which like proverbs dazzle, amuse, stimulate, edify and satisfy: "Love is the flesh and bone of which God Himself is made", "the star pulsates where the heart was beating", 'nothing in life is perfect and even magic fails us", "blind dancers miraculously mark faultless meter". Buttaci as a poet has an extraordinary union of intellectual and imaginative power, both at their highest.