Islands of Illusion: A Collection of New Poems by Ernest Dempsey

Islands of Illusion: A Collection of New Poems
Ernest Dempsey
World Audience, Inc. (2007)
ISBN 9781934209233
Reviewed by John Cartwright for Reader Views (3/08)


Ernest Dempsey is actually Abdul Karim Khan and his book of poetry, “Islands of Illusion,” leaves little doubt of this. Anyone who has read literature written by someone whose first language is not English can detect this immediately (with the notable exception of Joseph Conrad; and this will be the only time in the future history of the universe that Dempsey’s name and Conrad’s will appear within several miles of each other.) In his Preface, Dempsey states, “…poetry writing did not become part of my creative activity until the end of my graduation in geology.” Well, this might be a typo or a colloquialism or some other error, but this book is rife with them.

“A passion of the heart
A shine of the eye
A smile of the lips…
And leave the world behind
For good and all the good.”

And the illustrious,

“I was set off
On the voyage of life…”

Or the truly amazing,

“Tell me how to put
my happiness in word….”  (Perhaps, he meant MSWord?)

I would put “[sic]” behind all these errors but I would need to spell it with a k. There is so much bad writing in this little, (thankfully), tome, that it is worth buying for any writer just to remind one of what NOT to do.  I would suggest a subtitle of “Don’t Let This Happen to You.”  Everyone who teaches writing should read from any page as a lesson of where ego and amateurishness collide in this hodgepodge of emotive, pseudo-intellectual claptrap.  There is an almost indecipherable bit of purple prose by Esther Lombardi entitled, “Introduction,” where she says, “Illusion is that which misleads.” That is a definition which appears in no known dictionary, except Ms Lombardi’s.  And I can say that this “book” is, using her definition, it is an “illusion,” because it certainly would mislead anyone perusing it into thinking he might have picked up a collection of poetry.  I wish that it simply ended with the last poem, but not content to insult the reader with the Preface, Introduction and the “poems,” Mr. Khan reveals his true identity as a Pakistani in a section at the end called “Patrick Dempsey.”  While written in the third person, the author’s poor grammar and awkward syntax pervade, revealing that either he or someone else with the same accent wrote it.  Again, this could be quaint, even laudable, were the poems honest and truthful.  They are unrelentingly neither. But, we are beaten over the head again with a chapter entitled, “Afterword,” by someone calling himself, “M. Stefan Strozier.”  He compares Khan with the greats of literature (believe me; I’m not kidding although I wish I were) –

“…there has never been a great American playwright, whereas America has had a few great writers in the past.  O’Neill and Williams, though very good, are not on the same level as Shakespeare, Sophocles, Euripides, Ibsen, Chekov, etc.  O’Neill’s best plays are about drunken Irishmen, drinking during most of the play!…Khan’s poetry is crystal-clear, pick any random line.  His mind’s eye is capable of analyzing from several angles, simultaneously…truly great writers like Khan [are] absolutely exhilarating.”

I would bet that Mr. “Strozier” and Mr. “Dempsey” are very, very close. So close in fact, that if they are not one and the same, they would need to be separated with a crowbar.  I don’t know how many trees died for the publication of “Islands of Illusion,” but their ghosts are weeping, along with me, but these are tears of laughter and disgust, not sympathy.

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