Robert Beveridge's Reviews > Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones

Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones by Dzvinia Orlowsky
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Dec 01, 10

bookshelves: 2010-goal-list, ohio-link, finished, best-i-read-2010-edition
Recommended for: the entire goddamned world
Read from November 08 to 09, 2010, read count: 1

Dzvinia Orlowsky, Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008)

I've had a major crush on Dzvinia Orlowsky since I stumbled upon her first book some years ago. The woman writes sex so well it practically drips off the page. But now we come to Convertible Night, Flurry of Stones, a book about what may be the most unsexy topic a poet can choose to write about: breast cancer. There's always an acid test in a relationship, a point where you figure out whether a crush is just infatuation or whether there's something deeper to it. I couldn't help, while reading this book, comparing it to the last breast cancer poetry collection I read (Julie Maloney's Private Landscape, which I reviewed back in March of 2010). It got me thinking that I really need to give a copy of this book to everyone who would use poetry and therapy, and then attempt to publish the results. If that's not love, what is?

“...Disney producers remind them
moms, too, have to go—

on hospital beds, in mall accidents,
just before a rodeo.

Dads remain strong in plaid flannel shirts
capable of handling a combine, moving everyone

to the country to begin again...”
(“All Gone”)

There's been a tendency in media over the past few years (I blame it on the movie Napoleon Dynamite) to glorify the hip-cynical, that younger-generation “I've seen it all, I know it all, and I hate it all” vibe that's never more than pothole-shallow. Look at the cynicism burning through that passage above and tell me you can't see the difference between that and the slick hipsterism that radiates from, say, Jesse Eisenberg. What's the difference? There's actually feeling behind this. It's not a pose (and really, if you're in your twenties and think you have the luxury of being cynical, it is a pose, no matter how deeply felt. I know, I was there). You need another example to show what I'm talking about? Take a common childhood fear and smack it in the face a few times:

“Two clowns step off the elevator
with crowded, static-angry

balloons tied to their wrists
just as the hospital cafeteria

shuts down. You redirect them
to the children's floor.

But the children don't want them either.
They've suffered enough good cheer—

as have the well-meaning clowns,
trying for just one laugh

with their large plastic combs
and bungle-stuffed catchall satchels....”
(“Infusion”)

Throw in a few well-chosen words to make the fear aspect more obvious. (“Static-angry balloons”? That's genius.) I say again as I have said many times before: how you say something is just as important as what you say, if not more. Orlowsky has always gotten this. And she does it so very, very well.

This is a no-brainer to make my ten best reads of 2010. A phenomenal piece of work; my favorite Orwlosky collection to date. **** ½
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