Robert's Reviews > Lost Horse Press New Poets Series: New Poets, Short Books Volume III

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

Emily Bobo writes about an ex-pianist's relationship to her instrument, citing two definitions of "fugue" on the cover page-first, the obvious musical definition involving multiple voices playing a contrapuntal theme; second, the psychiatric definition involving a psychological flight from circumstances, manifesting like amnesia.

The mother figures large throughout the collection, imposing discipline and transferred hopes. In one of the early poems, "The Recovering Musician and the Parable of the Mustard Seed" (after Matthew 13:31-35), the mother pronounces, "The kingdom of heaven is like a daughter, which a single mom bore and enrolled in piano lessons."

The collection unfolds a complex tangle of inner and outer relationships, through parables involving Father, Mother, and Satan reminiscent of Louise Glueck's Ararat; to a series of letters, including one "Letter to an Ex-Stalker" which speaks of obsession in musical terms, then declares, "Yours / is the lid I cannot / let close, the wound / I tend with salt / and carefully." Throughout this collection, Bobo "tends the wound" of not playing piano through parable, epistle, and child-like declamations, layering rich contrapuntal melodies sung on the theme of loss.

More about Fugue by Emily Bobo

"It's in my poetic blood to make disjunctive arrangements," declares Joel Craig. In five long poems spanning sixteen pages, Craig employs a kind of idiomatic scrapbooking, combined with syntactic contortions, to achieve surprising psychological assemblages. Language, and where it leads us, is primary in these poems. Narrative takes a back seat. Craig is particularly fond of certain words and phrases. The word "okay," for example, that milquetoast signifier of nothing-much assiduously avoided by most poets, is gainfully resurrected by Craig in multiple poems. The color green, Death Valley, and Buddha also weave their way through this tapestry. The phrase "It's just so fun to speculate" repeats throughout "Thin Red Line", as indeed these poems do speculate-leaping wildly from line to line.

But this collection represents far more than an exhibition of linguistic gymnastics. Near the end of my favorite poem of this collection, "Street Dad," the speaker tells us, "I didn't know I was suffering from an illness / known as depression. For the first time / in my life, I thought I was seeing the world." Elsewhere in "High Park" the speaker says of one character, "He's a person who, when he's attracted to someone / intuitively senses what's lacking in / their emotional life. A compulsion / to become whatever they need most."

These are poems seeking newness through juxtaposition, aware of the insufficiency of their medium even as they endeavor to transcend it, much like the speaker at the end of "Street Dad" who tells us, perhaps anxiously, "I sat for a moment, staring at my knees as I tried / to put broad, wide images / into small, tidy words."

More about Shine Tomorrow by Joel Craig

Amy Lingafelter flirts with deeper human concerns through surrealism, holding up, as she writes in "Holoblastic," "a mirror / in the bathroom of the party." The speaker goes on in this poem to admonish those on "the road to Recovery" through cleverly spring-loaded syntax that "you'll never always be wanting / just one thing."

"The Summer I Started Pickling Things" finds poetry by taking the Midwest tradition of pickling to new levels of absurdity-mirrors, siblings, even Shame itself are suffused with vinegar. "Monotremata" casts an at-once poignant and nutty glance at female fertility. Lovemaking, mirrors, tanning, and cell division recur in the ever-shifting worldview of these poems.

In "The Counterfeiter," the speaker, continually "backing up" a charming man comes to realize that, "I will be a happy woman / the day I realize / the secret to your charm / is my charm." The secret to Amy Lingafelter's charm lies in her uncanny ability to hold reality and unreality squarely in the binocular vision of these poems, admonishing us, as she does in "Days of Grace," that, "'Remember' is not the opposite of 'forget.'" These are poems you will both remember, and whose dizzying effect you are not soon to forget.

More about Return of the Fist by Amy Lingafelter
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Reading Progress

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

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