Collections of poems are often the antithesis of page-turners. A single poem can call on the same amount of mental energy as a short story or novel’s chapter. There is a relieving aha when I read a single poem and am compelled to either close the book for respite or obsessively read it over and over for a half hour. At times, these intense reading experiences can be just what we want to wrangle in a deep tissue mental and emotional massage.
★ Be Recorder
Carmen Giménez Smith brings readers an award-worthy, cling-to-every-word collection with Be Recorder. I found myself at the last line of several poems shaking my head with a rousing mmm mmm mmmmm. Divided into three sections, this poetry bliss moves through mythic moments of creation, calls to action and complex relationships. We take the expensive trip through “the past the present the lie / the reality the parlor game the miniseries / the battle older than me in my helix” and are told to “just charge it to my race card.” The foot never lets off the pedal as Be Recorder shifts toward the familial, taking on Alzheimer’s and motherhood. “I Will Be My Mother’s Apprentice,” “Beasts” and “American Mythos” make this book a standout gift for adult children of aging parents.
The Government Lake
James Tate’s The Government Lake, published posthumously, has a rigorously soothing effect. These poems deal with the odd, othered and imagined, with fresh precision. Don’t let the prose-looking pages fool you. Just when you’ve found your footing, Tate melts a clock and drips it over all the edges as only a poem or surrealist masterpiece can do. The poet offers a master class in enticing first and last statements, as poem bodies full of wit and manic ubertalk are enveloped in openings and closings like: “Oliver sat in his chair like milk in a bottle. . . . That’s not the sky, that’s just a bunny I once knew.” Let these humorous and reflective prose poems breathe and invoke their full topsy-turvy splendor.
Jana Prikryl’s No Matter introduces us to a body of poems posing as an evolving or dissolving cityscape. Many of the titles in this collection repeat themselves. The multiple “Anonymous,” “Waves,” “Sibyl,” “Friend” and “Stoic” poems operate as a city block with identical building facades. Of course the inner workings are completely different, but each stokes the question: Have we been here before? Themes of cyclical development and destruction lie parallel to agape and eros love. The personal and public intertwine in a beautiful blur. Prikryl creates a subway experience where “it’s / the one place no one has to talk / and nobody feels guilty for / their place.” These sharp poems invite consideration about how our modern society makes us “a person dragged away from personhood.” And it’s all an utter delight.
Ahhhhh, the deep tissue massage of poetry!
Poet and ARTrepreneur Stephanie Pruitt-Gaines lives in Nashville, where she’s powered by pancakes, art and a furkid named Sugar.