Caravaggio’s Dagger – Review by Candice James, Poet Laureate of New Westminster, BC, Canada

This review appeared in Canadian Poetry Review.

AUTHOR: Hendrik Slegtenhorst
PUBLISHER: Iguana Books 2013
ISBN: 978-1-77180-015-0
PGS: 105
REVIEWED BY: Candice James

Candice James

Candice James

Caravaggio’s Dagger is one of those rare books of poetry you pick up and find it almost impossible to put down. These pages are satin highways leading the reader through velvet intersections; and they too are rough gravel roads weaving and winding through forests of fallen trees and washed out bridges. The poetry so very adeptly runs the gamut from the trials of personal victories and tribulations of defeats in the arena of war and peace. Hendrik Slegtenhorst’s poetry revolves inside a past, present and future that spin inside each other as the timbre of his words approach on both little cat feet and thundering panther paws. The poetry comes alive in nights that run silent and deep and reflects in the shallows of days that are mirrors. Time passes, beauty decays, death and breath fade away as todays chase tomorrows faster with each echoing footfall.

The slick run of words in the poem “Columbia Street in New Westminster” is evidenced in the final lines “the Fraser River coruscates/In spaces of brilliance that dart across the well-worn glint of train tracks.” The images presented in “Alone Together” are dark yet vibrant “Come a cold autumn / when the nights are long and fine / drawn like cold filaments over snapped bones” and “slender hours / among the intaglio of time”. I found these words drawing me deeper and deeper into another time and space with such an intangible ease; and the beautiful descriptions in “Polarities” and “North Sea at Sundown” are most definitely eye-candy for the soul. “Sinfonia Concertante” is a superb poem that succinctly and yet panoramically paints the difficulties of relationships asking questions that cannot adequately be answered.

I was particularly taken with the three divisions in the poem “Self Portraits in Youth” into Approach to Middle Night; At Midday; In the North of the Afternoon; and the perfect ending “The allure of error in the disjunctions of time / Spasms of actuality permeated by / The remembrance of waste.” These lines serve up a gourmet meal of food for thought!

The flow of emotion in “Centrality” is as if an artery runs through the poem beating and pulsating with raw feelings sliced open by Slegtenhorst’s pen, as sharp as Caravaggio’s Dagger. Oh! He has a way with words when his pen spills phrases like “The waters wash a sky that burns away” from “Inside Sunlight”.

In “Wanderings” the line “The thoughts on my father’s face as he looked out to sea” brought to my mind many faces from my own past…..some thoughts on their faces easily realized, but, in retrospect, the vast majority secretive and hidden. “The Seven Singels of Leiden” takes us on a metaphysical journey as the poet’s ghost makes its appearance in the first two lines “In the canals and narrow streets / I persist as a shadow and a memory” and the last two lines evidence the poets dimensionalization into synchronous locations “As a lingering and a formlessness / I am this existence near and faraway”.

As I began reading “Arriving In Avalon” I floated down a river of words into the inner sanctum of eternity, overflowing with uncharted distances, places and times filled with certainty, familiarity, destiny and destination. .

Hendrik Slegtenhorst very eloquently reminds us of how very small and insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things in the powerful opening two lines and the closing two lines of the poem “Examination: “Expressionless, another daybreak erases / The commentaries of the watcher” // “Pitiless under the falling of the dry rain of contempt / Small seconds creep on, and the sentence is time.

“Through Need and Gladness” expresses the true depth of falling in love to the exclusion of all except the loved one. “She is his only greed, his only / Grace, and through her eyes he sees / The unforgotten endlessness or everything / He has yearned for, and everything / He has learned no longer to possess.”

Slegtenhorst is a master at painting the reader into a corner of invisible ladders that turn visible at the precise moment of perfected induction that transports the reader across the glowing magnetic fields of his pristine poetic universe. He lives “Among the mauve twilights / Embroidered with flutesong” and invites us to enter his poetic realm.

About the Poet:
Hendrik Slegtenhorst has over 100 works published in established publications. He is past co-chair of the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton; past president of the Federation of British Columbia Writers, and a past director of the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association. He has held executive positions in government, heritage, and post-secondary education. He lives in Vancouver, BC. Further Info at:

About the Reviewer:
Candice James is in her 2nd three year term as Poet Laureate of New Westminster, She is past president of both Royal City Literary Arts Society and Federation of British Columbia Writers; a full member of League Canadian Poets; and author of eleven poetry books: the first “A Split In The Water” (Fiddlehead Poetry Books 1979); and the most recent are “Merging Dimensions” (Ekstasis Editions 2015). She was awarded the prestigious Bernie Legge Artist Cultural Award 2015 and also the recipient of Pandora’s Collective Citizenship award 2015. Further Info at: Wikipedia and

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