In his preface to Amazing Change, Robert Carroll speaks directly about the power of poetry to heal. At a time of great personal loss, he says, "I began writing as a way of dealing with the inchoate, yet overwhelming, feelings I was experiencing... hopefully, to facilitate a healing process for myself." The poems collected in Amazing Change, which bears the subtitle "Poetry of Healing and Transformation: The Wisdom That Illness, Death and Dying Provide," reveal the depth and power of that healing process. They show the reader that poetic healing not only engages a person in self-discovery, but also in sharing that discovery with others. Wholeness is a community project.

While Amazing Change deals with serious subjects, many of the poems approach the subjects with humor and a light touch of irony. This is particularly true in "Dr. Bob's Psychomedical Poetics--Infomercial 1" (pp. 78-80) and "Dr. Bob's Psychomedical Poetics--Infomercial 2" (pp. 109-111). "Spiritual Soup" (p. 93) is another example of the value of humor in the good life, along with other core ingredients like marriage, prayer, hospitality, blues, hope, and pot luck.

Among the finest poems in this collection is "Kaddesh for My Father" (pp. 47-53). Written in filial homage to the poet's father, in artistic homage to Allen Ginsberg, and in spiritual homage to the Judaic tradition, "Kaddesh for My Father" seamlessly integrates personal detail and anecdote about his father with ritualized expressions of prayer and emotion.  In this and many other poems, Carroll employs poetic form and/or historical exemplars to enhance the meaning of his work, but never allows them to constrain or dilute his personal vision.


Here are a few examples of "Dr. Bob's" wisdom. First, "What's most personal / is most universal" (p. 79),  a statement reminiscent of William Carlos Williams' aphorism, "No ideas but in things." This richness of particulars is exemplified in such poems as, "What Waiting Is" (p. 30), "This Much" (p. 33), and "A Trip to the Third Street Promenade" (p. 73). Another piece of wisdom: "If you want to find your voice, / write like you talk" (p. 79). "The Graft" (p. 58), a poem about getting a ligament allograft in his knee, demonstrates this conversational style. 

A third sample of "Dr. Bob's" wisdom is this: "It's the poem in the poet / not the poet in the poem / that's important" (p. 79). I interpret "the poem in the poet" to refer to the interior journey, the process of discovering one's own voice. Alternatively, "the poet in the poem" means the poet-specific data embedded in the finished product. While I'll grant the relative truth of what "Dr. Bob" has to say about this dichotomy, the fact is that you can't create effective poetry without both experiencing the interior journey AND conveying evidence of that journey in the poem itself.

Primary Source

Amazing Change


Bombshelter Press

Place Published

Los Angeles



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