“I’m here/Like always.” Thus closes Mel Glenn’s 1991 collection of interrelated poems. The lines are spoken by the overworked, if infinitely patient, high school guidance counselor, Mark Candler. It is Friday afternoon. Just as Mr. Candler is about to close the office for the week—and take his car in for a muffler repair and himself to the dentist—a student has appeared at his doorway, and the dedicated Mr. Candler quietly understands that his own errands, indeed his own life, must wait a bit. Here is another student whose crisis deserves airing, whose voice deserves to be heard.
Mr. Candler’s generous response defines Glenn’s own democratic vision, born of his long commitment to the classroom: the conviction that every adolescent voice deserves an audience. The name Glenn selected for his guidance counselor—Candler—provides some insight. It suggests a profession that provides illumination, here the counselor’s patient ear. No student problem presented in the collection is resolved; the therapy here is honest confrontation rather than treatment. Because each voice speaks in monologue, because the voices never directly speak to each other, Glenn creates an unnerving sense of distance, underscoring the unsettling isolation of adolescence with voices that never receive an answer. These are unsettling poems that raise dilemmas without quick-fix remedies. Indeed, the voices emerge, speak, and then dissolve back into the narrative text, never to be heard again. It is the impact of their collective voice that creates the work’s emotional impact—the steady accumulation of...
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