Robert's Reviews > Lost Horse Press New Poets Series: New Poets/ Short Books/ Volume I

Lost Horse Press New Poets Series by Gwendolyn Cash
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it was amazing
bookshelves: own, recommended, first-books
Recommended for: poets

The opening poem of "Acts of Contrition" by Gwendolyn Cash begins, "Today I'm going to lie about everything." The poem, like the whole collection, is actually stark and startling for its honesty, taking up Emily Dickinson's advice to "tell all the truth but tell it slant." It is always the story beneath the story, the glittering terrible pieces of a seemingly ordinary life, that Cash studies and renders. In perhaps my favorite poem of the series, "Bully," the speaker guides us deftly in second person from recalling the physical pain of bullying through moments of recognizing the bully on the post office wall, in the news at an arrest, arriving finally to teach a writing class in a prison to find him there. In a symbolic act--is it empathy? fascination? revenge? or some mix?--"you'll hand him a sheet of paper / and a sharpened pencil, your throat / so dry it hurts, saying, / Tell me your story, / Tell it like it is." In twenty-two pages of tight-gripping poetry, Gwendolyn Cash does just that--she tells it like it is.

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Boyd Benson begins the poem "It Was Too Late" from "The Owl's Ears" with the simultaneously nutty and philosophical line, "I never saw myself coming." From here, this poem takes on some of the beautiful sorrow of a poet like Larry Levis, as "local dogs / lay down with the sound of my name." Benson guides us through a dreamlike world in this collection. He introduces us to strange characters like "The Silent Comedians" and "The Opener of Doors." In his realm, Magritte-like surrealism, full of portals and hats, can be married to more deeply philosophical concerns (one poem is entitled "Socrates"). Dense with imagery, though fleet of foot, these poems render a delicious turn of mind, at once whimsical and longing--pathos laced with a dash of prank. For those willing to take the journey, Boyd W. Benson's poetry may well be the best thing since lucid dreaming.

More about The Owl's Ears by Boyd W. Benson

Lisa Galloway believes that "poetry should be a shock to the senses, it should evoke something and it should leave you with something." In "Liminal: A Life of Cleavage," poems about love, sex, drugs, and family dynamics look you straight in the eye. The collection involves frank depictions of lesbian culture and sexuality. It is also laced with double entendres, including the title itself. In one of my favorite poems, "How Am I?," the speaker reacts to her mother's cancer, telling us, "like the socket incessantly tongued / from the tooth extracted, / this was one of those things / that you couldn't stop tasting or staring at." Many of the poems in this collection affected me in just this way--drawing me in to another's fully-formed world, surprised, provoked, and unable to put the book down.

More about Liminal: A Life of Cleavage by Lisa Galloway
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Reading Progress

September 15, 2010 – Started Reading
September 15, 2010 – Shelved
September 19, 2010 – Shelved as: own
September 19, 2010 – Shelved as: recommended
September 19, 2010 – Finished Reading
February 13, 2011 – Shelved as: first-books

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