Review: Temporary Champions by Darren C. Demaree

Reviewed by Raquel Thorne

Temporary ChampionsPoetry
Paperback: 75 pages
Publisher: Main Street Rag (2014)
Available at Main Street Rag

November 13, 1982. Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Kim Duk-koo, two lightweight boxers, meet outside of Ceasars Palace for the title bout. In his hotel room, Kim has scrawled, “Live or Die” on his lampshade; Mancini has declared war. What follows changes boxing rules forever.

In Temporary Champions, Demaree takes the reader step-by-step through the match, the men, the crowd, interlacing his text the match’s tragic endings.

Meet Kim:

& though he was sure
it was destiny, to kill
or be killed, he never feared
Mancini or death, he
feared his mother’s arrival
at his defeat. This rough love
lent him to both worlds.

Meet Mancini:

Light rapped the fists
of the fighter’s son,
the shred of his bone
turning him into a bull
with horns, an Ohioan
fully present out of Ohio
& boisterous, still pretty
enough know the pierce
of his skin would be scarring

Sit with the crowd:

thrilled to watch the sacrifice,
the weekend animal thrown in the
ring, cast about upon the sea of
other flesh, of cheering hands of
half-humans, watchers.

And consider the fight:

Marked time, fire to fire,
the consumption of fire
by fire, a creation of fear
& no fear, the voiding of fear,
a whole world built on hip
swivel, shoulder strength, hip
dealing, squaring weight to jaw,
extending luminosity to jaw
& big, risky dealings of spirit

While not every poem in Temporary Champions is a sure-fire hit, overall the collection rings true. Demaree is not just a simple bystander in Kim and Mancini’s fight, retelling its glory and its tragedy, but slowly writes himself into the story, willingly inviting his reader to share his rubber-neck horror. Reading Temporary Champions, I felt myself similarly unable to look away, and found it a quick, enthralling read.

Temporary Champions is a poetry collection for boxing fans, for those who love creative non-fiction, or who are willing to explore themselves as part of the crowd.

I can think of no greater activity

for demonstrating the breadth
of greatness, of awful

dances, never to be forgotten,
than the history of boxing.

darren-c-demareeDarren C. Demaree lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.  He is the author of three poetry collections: As We Refer to Our Bodies (8th House, 2013), Temporary Champions (Main Street Rag, 2014), and Not For Art Nor Prayer (8th House, 2015).  He is the recipient of three Pushcart Prize nominations and a Best of the Net nomination. Recently Darren’s work has appeared in fine places such as Cactus Heart, Danse Macabre, and Delmarva Review. For more about Darren, visit his blog or follow him on twitter @d_c_demaree

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