Poetry. Gay and Lesbian Studies. A gay son's troubled homage to his father, ONE HAND ON THE WHEEL is also the first book in the new California Poetry Series by Roundhouse Press a new imprint of Hayday Books. In a series of linked poems, a gay son at his father's deathbed (no accident/ it's me, Dad, your mortal enemy and friend . . . ) uncovers his family's past and his own passage from childhood to raising a son. Singular, fresh . . . [Dan Bellm] is an American artist of enormous gifts and discipline - June Jordan. Dan Bellm's courageous and human poems are a strong inauguration for the California Poetry Series. A very fine book - Adrienne Rich.
This lean, expressive debut (the first in the California Poetry Series, edited by Joyce Jenkins of Poetry Flash) is like a mournful cowboy song, neither giving too much nor holding back. Although Dan Bellm's subject is his father's love and the troubled precincts of American masculinity, his subtext is the silence between sons and fathers. His spare, formal lines manage both to reiterate his father's pained reticence and to challenge it. He reaches into an imagined past for the origins of his father's hardness; for his tender, uncertain proposal of marriage to Bellm's mother; and for his perennial self-doubt as a second son who will turn away emotionally from his own second son. While Bellm is capable of sustained lyricism, in most cases he has chosen the terse statement over the elaboration, in work as spare and direct as the opening lines from "Discipline": "What he had to teach I didn't want to learn / What I wanted to learn he was not the one to teach, / and we turned from each other with a graceless dismay, / heartsore, hurt-shy, trapped together in a family." --Regina Marler