Tuesday, August 30, 2016

MY TALL HANDSOME, a collection of poems in the key of love, lovingkindness, and power

(Mineral Point Poetry Series #4)
Brain Mill Press
$9.95 trade paper, available now

Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: The fanged fairy of Emily Corwin's forest-mud-stained collection asserts and sings with short rhymes and glitter-spells, and just as you've followed her into the deepest and darkest part of the woods, terrified, you're asked to run away together / and promise to never / do this heart-skipping thing / with anyone else.

Don't be surprised when you find yourself answering yes, yes, yes.

Confronting and darling, every word a perfect warm circlet of pink blood, My Tall Handsome raids every crystal jar on the lace-topped vanity for truth, poison, and song until you can't remember why you ever thought pretty was better than powerful, sugar was better than bitter medicine, or dancing needed more music than your own voice.


My Review: Kiki Petrosino, the editor of the Mineral Point Poetry series, says this of My Tall Handsome in her introduction to it:
These poems are unabashed in their enjoyment of the grotesque, but there is always intentionality behind Corwin's choice of imagery. Her speaker is inextricably, even ecstatically, bonded to her "tall handsome" lover, but she struggles to share the language of her rich inner life within the bounds of this relationship.What language is public? What is private? What tokens, allusions, and talismans belong only to the ardent pair?
I am reasonably confident that this paragraph puts into elegant words the central problem of any writer attempting to capture the inner flame of love by outlining its shadows on paper. It's a testament to the potery series' editor and the poet, Emily Corwin, that this collection both demonstrates the problem and shows a satisfying example of a successful solution to it.

"meet me tomorrow/in a brittle field / the stalks dry, ash-white/ rippling. / Look for me in a gingham dress. / I'll be holding blackberries / and a small axe / crooning in my arms." I can't recreate the effect of the typesetting myself, since I don't have that kind of tool-kit in these posts, but I can tell you that the *look* of the lines is as important to the reading experience, to the comprehension of the poet's purpose in selecting those words and interrelating them just so, as their existence on paper itself is. This is not to say that these are concrete poems, perish forbid!, that relic of the 20th century is (happily, at least in my opinion) as unfashionable nowadays as confessional poetry (much less happily) is. The look of a poem has always had an affect on how readers both understand and respond to it. It's one way in which the literate world attempts to hold on to the once obvious effect of poems as songs. After all, Homer (composite character that s/he is) was an ancient Greek rapper, singing his goddess-filled phrases before the communal fire and holding her/is audience enraptured and ensorcelled. Had that not been the case, The Iliad and The Odyssey wouldn't be remembered today.

Corwin is working in the unjustly maligned as unhip, devant garde Confessional furrow started strong and true by Sylvia Plath and Sharon Olds and John Berryman (among so many others). Her confessions are, as were most particularly Olds's, the love-chants of a cisgender/heterosexual woman working out a reasoned response to the power dynamic evolving between her inner and outer selves, as well as herself and her beloved: "my tall handsome, you are always / hydrangea in my rib, popped open / always dazzle of salt on my punched lip"

I don't know how better to explain my pleasure in this read than to say that, in a properly ordered world, Emily Corwin would have a gorgeous retreat provided to her by a grateful music industry for her gift of the perfect text for hugely popular Lieder that would hold massive audiences spellbound for an entire evening of divine song.

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