Monday, February 15, 2010
What I'm Reading: Ruin
28º bright sun, light breeze in the upper branches
Ruin by Cynthia Cruz is a book I first requested through ILL last fall. After I'd read just the first few poems, I knew it was a book I needed to own. This second read through proved that buying the book was the right choice. After I'd read the book once, I turned to the back cover to learn more about Cruz and also happened to read the blurbs. Blurbs don't usually influence me to read a book, but these two really do capture the book well. "This is not a book about peacocks in twilight nor should it be read in the parlor," begins Thomas Lux. And Reginald Shepherd writes of the "landscape of fates and fatal hungers, nightmares and dangerous desires, in which enchantment and terror are so intimate that they become one." These blurbs are nearly poems themselves and apt descriptors of a book with a main theme of ruin and destruction.
Nearly all of the poems in Cruz' collection contain a first-person speaker, and that speaker emerges out of the reality of a working-class family with an alcoholic mother and a brother who ends up dead due to some kind of gun violence. In fact, as I read the poems, I was reminded thematically of Beth Bachmann's Temper. Cruz' book threads through the destruction of a nuclear family, although there is even more mystery in the narrative than there was in Bachmann's book.
Common images throughout the book include: horses, death, destruction, falcons, guns, a boat, the speaker hiding, and weeds, to name a few. Given that the poems are all compact bursts of language, I appreciated the weaving of key images throughout. In this interview for Poems Out Loud, Cruz states that when she writes she is "trying to make musical-language machines out of beauty and pain." I have to say, she succeeds in doing so!
Here are two examples. I'll copy the complete poems as they are short.
Twelve in Yellow-Weed at the Edge
Then, the police arrive--they don't find me.
I'm disguised as a boy in a champagne wig
And hid inside the gold rattle of a warm Appalachia wind.
Beneath the trash of willow, I am. The sorrow
Of trailer parks and carnie uncles. The poor
Girl's underworld, a weedy thing. The night,
With its kingdom of lanterns and awful blue lark.
How we waited, how we hid
Like wolves, in the revolving question of a field.
In the middle of the night, father
Brought me a falcon.
By morning, it ripped the wire and flew the hill
Into the highway.
When they found me in that car
My sleeve stemmed in blood,
I didn't know what it was
I was trying to kill.
I saw a craft of orphans steaming down the river.
They were dressed in white and silent as a seance.
It was then I spoke to the bird.
Already God is shaking his black seed
Back into me.
Support a Poet/Poetry: Buy or Borrow a Copy of this Book Today
Alice James Books, 2006