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

Lost Horse Press New Poets Series by Abby E. Murray
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it was amazing
bookshelves: recommended, first-books, own

Reading Abby E. Murray makes me want to be a better poet. By "better" I mean more wild, fierce, and free. Life can drive you crazy, if you let it. How refreshing, then, to read poems in Me & Coyote that regularly swan-dive off the edge, with such panache.

A poem like "Barnacle's Son" convinces me, completely, that even if a man can't be born from a rough sea creature, it ought to be possible. And within the language of the poem, it is. Equally convincing is the poem "How I Love You," whose lines taper down and down, constricting on the final phrase, in all its tough rightness: "I love you more than / an iron fence / loves her / house." And when "They Took Her Away in a Birdcage," my face wanted to smile and frown all at once.

But Abby's poems are not all mixed emotion and magical realism. She can hold focus on difficult topics as unflinchingly as a poet like Sharon Olds. Abby does just this in "Bones," written at the bedside of a wounded soldier, giving us "the explosion in slow motion:" "crescent moons and teardrops of shrapnel / spiraling up the leg from ankle to groin like / morning glories curling round a fencepost."

Read more about Me & Coyote by Abby E. Murray

Drug Enforcement Agency Special Agent Jesse S. Fourmy writes from his "government outpost on the Big Island [of Hawaii]" in Last Night's Fire and the Dwindling Embers of Evolution. These poems fuse a casual tone with a quirky outlook, a deeper pathos always just beneath the surface. If Keanu Reeves could write poetry like William Carlos Williams, the result might read a bit like Jesse S. Fourmy. I assure you there is nothing quite like it.

My favorite poem of the collection, "The Speed of Light," which is broken into several stanzas, ends a "confession" to a former science teacher reflecting on the "cupric" smell of urine, "a warmth of fatted cows staring oddly at motorists for miles." Urination is a recurring theme in this collection, "pissing" outside under "the weight of the stars," relieving oneself as a substitute teacher between classes in the science room sink, or as a three-year-old in a caretaker's lap. This is a collection that reaches ad astra per aspera, neither smoothing over the rough patches nor losing sight of the starlight.

Read more about Last Night's Fire and the Dwindling Embers of Evolution by Jesse S. Fourmy.

Karen Holman is a social worker in Detroit whose clients include the mentally ill. The final poem of Welcoming in the Starry Night of the Lightning Bees is written to Saint Dymphna, patron saint of the mentally afflicted. The speaker tells us, "Those afflicted in their minds collect and assemble the words they hope will save them. Their sentences tangle but I have a knack with ciphers. In response to their pleas I weave tapestries of words. Speaking plainly to you now is luxurious."

The poems in this collection touch upon the relationship between mother and daughter-allegorically through the myth of Persephone and Demeter, and directly through narrative poems like "No Mood" and "Arguing With My Mother Over My Father's Ashes."

Holman also employs more dream-like, surreal language, as in the poem "Catching My Death Of," which narrates the speaker's parachute-less fall from an airplane. In "Letter to the Wound Dresser," the wounded awakens to "flies / democratic as the mercy of God." It is through the dream-like that Holman finds a more trustworthy language, and one which transcends words. As the speaker says to her brother in a poem about dandelions, "I blow into your ear / to make you dream of wind."

Read more about Welcoming in the Starry Night of the Lightning Bees by Karen Holman.
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Reading Progress

April 10, 2010 – Started Reading
April 10, 2010 – Shelved
April 11, 2010 – Shelved as: recommended
April 11, 2010 – Finished Reading
February 13, 2011 – Shelved as: first-books
February 13, 2011 – Shelved as: own

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