Dan Pohl

Anarchy and Pancakes
by Dan Pohl
Review by Roy J. Beckemeyer

Anarchy and Pancakes Cover Image

Dan Pohl is a native Kansan whose keen eye and honed wit have taken in and carefully observed the true and centered heart of the heartland of America. We are fortunate that he presents it to us, here on the pages of Anarchy and Pancakes. Listen as he addresses William Stafford in celebration of Stafford’s 100th birthday:

“I prefer we meet where the river whispers

To toss our stones across the life of it, and
As we do, count the skips each makes over
The surface, before our stories sink into it,
To collect there from the time we shared”

These stories and images from Pohl’s times vividly capture life on the prairie in all its expansiveness. He shows us

“Cows as islands, unmoved, watching
Golden waves of grass break upon
Their content yet cautious shores”

In his poem, “Unpaved Roads,” Pohl proffers the Kansas mindset:

“The GPS has its own mind
Focused so much on cities
A certain perspective of
the programmer…

Female voice, seductive
Trills of vowels, consonants
Each time I press her buttons

With the question asked of me
Your destination is on an
Unpaved road; are you
Certain you want to go there?


Pohl almost sings his remembrance of pushing a classmate on a playground swing:

“The sway she carried
Through the arc, hands
To hips on friendly terms,
To push the fresh smell
Of her, a new scent to
Ponder at the swings.

The chains, the seat,
The breeze from her travel,
Her smile, the soft sand
Below, the deep blue sky

In the book’s eponymous poem, Pohl philosophizes about the importance of a single word, comparing that word with a drop of water on a hot griddle, hinging his whole book on this unique and lovely metaphor:

“One water drop
                          Skitters across
                        Sizzles to death
                     Its hum and ping
                    Glides above
                 A microscopic
                    Field of steam
                     Kissing untouched
                       Metal, the grill
                          Hot enough
                           For pancakes

The word, one
                         Word slides
                           Onto a page
                             To trap itself
                                Face up to wait
                                Patiently for
                              Its discovery
                       Until the world’s
                            Anarchy calms
                              Enough to notice”

Dan Pohl’s poems are oil on anarchic waters, balm for troubled souls. Please take notice!    


Anarchy and Pancakes, poems by Dan Pohl with illustrations by Jessie Pohl, Spartan Press, Kansas City, MO, 2018, viii+68 pp., is available from Amazon, as is his previous, Nelson Poetry Book Award winning volume, Autochthonous: Found in Place (Woodley Memorial Press, 2013, also illustrated by Jessie Pohl).

Several of Dan’s poems can be found online at the View from Smoky Hill web page; a review of his earlier book, Autochthonous: Found in Place is Here.


Roy J. Beckemeyer is a retired engineer and scientific journal editor who lives in Wichita, Kansas.  He currently studies the Paleozoic insect fossils of Alabama, Kansas, and Oklahoma, and writes poetry.  His first book of poetry, Music I Once Could Dance To (Coal City Press, Lawrence, KS 2014) was selected as a 2015 Kansas Notable ook.  He won the Beecher’s Magazine Poetry Contest in 2014, and the Kansas Voices Poetry Award in 2016.  He recently co-edited (with Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg) Kansas Time+Place: An Anthology of Heartland Poetry (Little Balkans Press, Pittsburg, KS 2017).

May 7, 2018