Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Review: Life Cycle [ poetry book ]

You know how in novels or movies, a woman will look at another woman and love her and say ' What a marvelous creature she is-- '

Dena Rash Guzman is a marvelous creature. Her poems are marvelous creatures, and her debut poetry book, Life Cycle, is the product of this kind of woman: fascinating, complicated, beautifully detailed, mysterious, talented, intelligent, extreme, devoted, endlessly compelling. 

I am terribly picky about poems. I don't like much of modern poetry, and it pains me deeply to write that. Reading through countless online and print literary magazines over the years, I've noticed the same ebb and flow, the hesitation here, the last line like this, the ticks all the same, and much of the work feels like it is suffocating underneath the poet's earnest desire to write a poem, instead of communicate with poetry and a joyful embrace of language; I can read all these poems, I just can't feel them. Life Cycle I felt: a heart beats here, the blood jet streams.

Dena's poems give me that still, connected feeling that all good writing of any kind brings to me, a pleasurable emotion specific to words and phrasings and stanzas that give me an intellectual hard-on. The words masterfully arranged as a Victorian garden or jungle flora: lush and balanced.

The ending of a Life Cycle poem:

I hate the castle and the king;
his men and maids

do these terrible things, such terrible things.

I sip. I spit. I spit. I spit

I like these kinds of words. I like teeth sunk into life, fierce in the way that canny eyed, intelligent poets can be fierce, missing nothing, including it all in hideaway drawers or naked on the bed. Either way, left to be discovered.

All of these poems have the same name: Life Cycle. I like that. I like the way it makes me double think about those two words, what they mean, what relation each poem has to each other and the writer. I like the way it gave me the sense of being dipped again and again into something bracing, like a waterwheel, poem into poem. 

What I love most about this poetry collection is that each poem brings me closer in, in where? you are not sure, but like good fiction, a place you know you want to go, are eager to get to. Small stories erupt in the poems- the poet with her husband, lying sticky in air conditioning, the poet and her sister getting treated for lice- it's interesting. Can we just say that we want to be interested when we read? That words and stories go together, not just beautified, manicured and architecturally sound words detached from our experience as human beings. No one seems to talk about that. Poems are reviewed and so much is said, but not if they are as boring as lead and lifeless as ink dripped on a page. These poems are a life, and they are interesting, and some of them blew me away, and I highly recommend that if you like words that give your brain a good feeling and send your heart a pumpin, you buy this book.

SOON TO BE AVAILABLE AT Powells Bookstore 

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