The Bi-Monthly Review is a twice monthly feature of whatever I happen to be reading. Highly informal. Opinions are my own. Try to enjoy.
This book isn’t new. Published in 2009, and sitting on my shelf since 2012, I only chose to read it now because it was lightweight and fit easily into my carry-on for a recent trip to Europe.
There are some truly brilliant poems here. Take “First Blow Job,” which begins: “Suddenly I knew what it was to be my uncle’s Labrador retriever…” and goes on to form it’s daring metaphor. Or “Nature Poetry”, which urges us to see the natural world even in the urban jungle surrounding us with its skyscrapers and sidewalks.
This book seems to be cast in a haze of smoke. That of musty bars, and of the much denser building-and-human smoke the lingered in Manhattan for months after 9/11. The poems here are grimy, yet necessary. Topics of sickness, adoption, alcoholism, lust, and hunger return in these poems again and again.
The speaker throughout most of the book spends her youth experimenting with alcohol and tobacco, and her adult life dealing with a failed marriage, the failing health of one of her fathers (she’s adopted), and with her own hungers and desires. There is a theme of discontent throughout the book, as though something is missing or vacant from the speaker’s life. But by the end of the book, in “Elegy for the Unknown Father,” the speaker finds solace in her adopted father and with herself, it seems, even at his grave.
This book of poetry is refreshing in its refusal to be sugarcoated. The feelings portrayed are honest and unashamed. I only found myself craving more variety in subject matter, something I rarely desire in cohesive works of poetry. I found myself as a reader wanting to step outside of the dingy bars a little more often, step away from the memories of a rebellious childhood, forget for a few more moments the failed relationships of the past. Even in a poem that begs to differentiate itself from an autobiography, “George Says Stop Writing About Yourself,” the speaker can’t help but to list characteristics of her life and family for the first 3.5 of the poem’s 5 stanzas. I think a bit more deviation from the past would convince me that the speaker truly is “home by now.” But perhaps that’s not the point.
Overall, this book is inspiring and honest, and scattered with some truly remarkable poems.