Grady's Reviews > The Nature of Attraction

The Nature of Attraction by Pris Campbell
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Aug 04, 11

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A Zenith of Poetic Collaboration

Pris Campbell and Scott Owens are individually two very talented poets whose works stand alone with the best of them: put them together in the manner that this collaboration defines and they are progenitors!
THE NATURE OF ATTRACTION is at once a coming together of a man and a woman – here named Norman and Sara – by physical attraction, by gesture, by suggestion, by private needs of solitary individuals that through the progress of this book become one, discovering each other’s needs and servicing those needs and yet never becoming symbiotic. How this happens in the form of poems makes extraordinary reading and provides insight into the nature of the individual placed in context with the formation of a bonding.
It is unclear which poet is writing in which voice: it is easy to assume that Pris Campbell is writing the thoughts and words and responses of Sara while Scott Owens writes the voice and character of Norman. But as the poems progress there is a synthesis of sort that makes us wonder if they haven’t switched roles, so well defined are the slowly unraveled needs of the other made evident.

Sara is a physical being with needs she has never lacked for fulfillment in her past. Norman is less aggressive, more vulnerable, less a practiced artist of lovemaking. They meet, discover each other:

SARA DISCOVERS NORMAN
Sara is flash lightning,
a loose wire,
her current not quite
touching ground.
She got a tattoo once,
pierced her belly button,
sewed roses all over her
size six baggy jeans.
She wishes she’d known Janis Joplin, Martin Luther King,
and the Chicago Seven; she admires
people who walk outside circling wagons.
She’s attracted to Norman.
In his Land’s End pressed slacks
and tailored shirts, he almost
blends in, but his shoes
are as scuffed as hers.

So much is said about each of these disparate people in this brief poem that we can feel the potential bumps in the road of their romance. But first the two come together and a relationship of passion is erotically felt be each – for us, the reader as voyeur. But as the relationship progresses interference raises its head: Sara never wanted children- Sara gets pregnant –a baby is born and Sara’s feelings change – Norman attempts to adapt but treats the child like he treats other distractions form his attention to obsessive details. They part – Sara with child, Norman watching form a distance missing the physical gratification of Sara before pregnancy, Sara accepting with joy the unexpected pleasures of mothering.

LOVING NORMAN
Is impossible./ He knows. He’s tried/for years/hand stroking/his many ego,/squeezing the bloated/throat. Oh, he looks good/enough on the surface,/ hair combed/across the thinning/ spots on top,/ teeth white/ but somewhat bent,/ cheap slacks pressed,/ shirt immaculately clean/ though a little damp./ Myrtle Beach Lothario/ slightly out of season,/ voice too loud,/ sugar too high,/ patience all but gone./ In his younger days/ he tried hard/ to earn the love/ of at least one/ warm body/ beside him,/ held his temper/ in check/spoke/ only in whispers,/ only sweet words, tried/ to be sensitive,/vulnerable, think/ of others first./ He thought/if he could love/ another, they might/ love him in return,/ but if his own father/ couldn’t do it,/ if he, himself,/ can’t do it,/ what hope/ did anyone else have?

Two brief poems form a book of emotionally rich and energetic poetry. There is lightness (a section in which Norman’s physical major endowment is viewed by each!), there are occult psychological reasons for each other’s responses, and there is so much more packed tersely into this story shared by people we long to know. It is a major accomplishment, this collaboration, and these are two gifted poets able to step out of their individual paths to create something refreshingly new and alive. THE NATURE OF ATTRACTION is brilliant! Grady Harp, August 11

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Pris Campbell thank you so much for this wonderful review, Grady. Scott will be pleased, too, and yes, you're correct...we did switch roles in some of the poems and in others we worked together to the extent that I would have to say we both wrote those. Scott Owens is the best collaborator I could work with.


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