Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What I'm Reading: A Brief History of Time & Lie Awake Lake

39º and bright, shining sun

Due to the huge stack of books waiting to be read, and the drafting I want to do today, here are two mini-mini-reviews, rather than my longer take on books of poetry.

I can't remember where I first read about Shaindel Beers' A Brief History of Time, but I do remember her being referred to as a Midwest poet or a rural poet or something along those lines that peaked my interest. Beers' book is not a book that romanticizes the rural, working-class world, but one that forces us to look at the ultra-real details of a life begun in rural poverty, a life that progresses into the educated, urban, middle-class and all the mixed feelings that progression evokes. Race, class, & gender are at work in nearly every poem.

My four favorite poems from the collection are:
"Elegy for a Past Life"
"Rebuttal Evidence" that begins this way
Because I've been loving in my own way all along,
just today, on the drive home from work on that stretch of 12

that still slices through the cornfields...
"Overview of the Carbon Cycle"
"What Will We Do With You? This Bone Has Almost No Flesh Protecting It--" (my favorite) begins
But I am like any porcelain doll, waiting to be destroyed
by a hammer. Brothers do these things
to incite the cries of their sisters. They think

This is power
. Someday they will learn that power

is smiling gleefully up at the anvil.


I read about Beckian Fritz Goldberg in an interview with another poet, exactly whom I've now forgotten. It turned out that I had an anthology with several of Goldberg's poems in it, which I read and which inspired me to check out Lie Awake Lake. In this book there are poems that beautifully weave the landscape with the body of the speaker. The poems illuminate loss and grief and, from time to time, joy and celebration.

I once had a student who did not like the use of questions in contemporary poetry, but one of my favorite poems of Goldberg's does just that (and I must confess I like to question in my poems as well). Here's the start of "Question As Part of the Body"
The essential question --
what do we ache for, what do we need, how do we get it?

or rephrased: How do
we not die?

How do we not see question as

part of the body?

Pain as. Light as.

Other favorites include:
"Fourth Month"
"Blossom at the End of the Body"

And I'll leave you with "Reliquary"

The lid sighed backward
it was a perfect fit

with the scent of laburnum and saints

as if the box, open,

addressed the physical world

the box being a snapdragon

in the hands
of the blossom thief: the boy in

the hands of a future

looking inside

what if he saw tonight

the firecracker thrown in the corner store
busting open a box of chili powder

smoke and red dust

and suddenly we're all breathing in

desire and repulsion

because the open takes
something from us, but

Mr. Eros, yo
ain't got a finger to stand on

not like a female saint
whose thumb is a shrine,

upright and petrified and guarded
by glass, permanently

testing the inner

Support poetry! Buy or Borrow a copy of these books today!
Shaindel Beers
A Brief History of Time
Salt Publishing, 2009

Beckian Fritz Goldberg
Lie Aw
ake Lake
Oberlin College Press, 2005


Paul Gibbons said...

I've been a fan of Beckian's work for a long time -- my favorites are "Body Betrayer" and "In the Badlands of Desire," but I'm a sucker for the raw, not quite polished book. "Badlands has a stride to it that just has the right density and image -- and it oozes attention to the exacting nature of verbs and metaphors. Here's a random sample:

"A fire dreams of the taste of my house./ Strange nights/ I sit with my hand in my hair."


Sandy Longhorn said...

P. Thanks for the added recommendation. Nice indeed.

Shaindel Beers said...

Wow, Sandy! Thanks for your kind words; I'm honored :-)

Take care,

Sandy Longhorn said...

You're more than welcome, S. I'm glad I found my way to your book!