To read a Bridget Lowe poem is to observe a gradual transformation, a transmutation of the ordinary into progressively more extraordinary metaphysical states. Anyone who read Lowe’s first book At the Autopsy of Vaslav Nijinsky will be excited to see, in her new collection My Second Work, a return of the same immense imagination, which she utilizes with surgical precision to prod at what makes us human.
In her latest collection, Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod, Traci Brimhall takes on the impossible task of all mothers: she tries to sing us to sleep. But even sleep can’t save us from the violence and chaos of the world. Even in sleep, there is a haunting, a symbolic language which speaks to us of the world we will return to upon waking.
The image evoked by the title, The Fire Lit & Nearing (Indolent Press, 2018) is both micro (a match flame inching towards your fingers), and macro (a forest fire jumping the fireline). It also summons the spark that lights up when we are about to fall in love. You know you can’t stop it; you know it will damage you; and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Like folks who rebuild on fire-prone land, this is not the first time you have been burnt and won’t be the last. So why? Perhaps it is so we can make art of it.
It is believed that the arrow that caused Ötzi the Iceman to bleed out on a mountain in the Alps had been used to kill two other people, probably by Ötzi himself since there’s murderous evidence on his knife as well, and I’m sure there’s a moral here or a handy metaphor, but what really fascinates me are his 61 tattoos. CT scans have shown he must have suffered physical pain, and the black line tattoos were an early form of acupuncture and meant to treat his ailments, ashes of old fires turned to ink that could draw his pain to the surface of his skin.
Not long ago, I wrote an essay reflecting on the many forms delusions can take that included some snippets from my childhood that I’d more or less suppressed for years. When I shared the essay with some other writers, I knew they would tell me that it was great. That I was great. But they didn’t. Nearly all of them wrote in the margin by the passage about my father, “this isn’t enough, go deeper.” I knew it wasn’t enough, hence the suppressing. But their pointing it out meant I had to do something about it or bury it for good.
We danced as if the booze had made / the hips of me the all of me / and no one had ever told me no. / We danced, the cheesy DJ crying out
Ilya Kaminsky’s second poetry collection, Deaf Republic, is an exhilarating and anguished poetic narrative. Sixty poems tell the story of an unspecified event wherein, “SOLDIERS—arrive in Vasenka to ‘protect our freedom,’ speaking a language no one understands.” The chilling poems that begin and end the collection suggest an acceptance of the preposterous—an all too familiar, yet distressing reality in today’s Unites States of America.
I turned to the breath-steamed window, parting a pane with my ungloved hand. There among the ornamental maples of the cemetery, I could just make out the wise men: bulb-lit, clustered, faces in prayerful repose. They appeared the day after Thanksgiving and stood through late January, long after we’d packed the plastic mistletoe in tissue, dragged molting trees to the curb. I never found out where the extension cords led.
I am a child in the lunchroom / which is the sometimes gym / singing my known truths: I love milk
Enough red to end / all desire for sex—reflected / in her stern countenance. / Her stance mocks / any sense of calm.