What So Cal Poets are Reading
The University of Wisconsin Press
Reviewed by Elena Karina Byrne
In a time when Newsweek claims no one
cares about poetry, publishers champion book after book filled with
disinterested diction and intellectual skeet shooting, Coleman's Borrowed Dress
is a poetry book that finally arouses what should be the "future's thirst" for
passion. Finally, here is a book we want to read again and again.
When were you last "smacked by the
boomerang / of desire" or hurtled "into winter's bright coma, into the hocus
pocus of the normal?" Threading the philosophical eye of the needle, Colman
acknowledges that the century has its "head thrown back," but she is one of
those brave, rare poets whose "freshly minted coins of reason," whose intuitive
perceptual accuracy, whose sharp wit and unpredictable language saves us from
the superficial and reminds us why poetry still reflects what Octavio Paz
called, "pure vitality, a heartbeat of time."
One of our very best poets writing
today, Colman responds to society's technological pull away from nature, that
artifice "piled upon artifice until what's natural terrifies, / and silverware
has the mournful authority of rain"; she knows that the universe is indeed
black, "like the back of a mirror" but her buoyant imagery is only part of the
genius which startles us past recognition.
The haunting "sound of a key's cough
in a lock" is our consciousness being opened. Here, "nothing's euphoria" is also
everything's beauty. No wonder Mark Doty said it rose to the top when choosing
the Felix Pollack prize. No wonder we can't wait for her next book. No wonder we
Elena Karina Byrne,
author of The Flammable Bird (Zoo Press), former Regional Director of The Poetry
Society of America, is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books Poetry Moderator
by Tish Eastman
Dragon Tears Press
Reviewed by Jack Bowman
The poems in this chapbook have a
razor sharp wit. Her powerful yet humorous work has, at times, a somber tone.
She explores how men are confused and intimidated by intelligent and perceptive
women, especially when a woman perceives too much about them.
"Foundations" offers a pithy history
of women's constraining undergarments, which are described as absurd torture
devices. The title has more than a little irony regarding how macho males have
treated women over the years. Her punch line ending regarding men who only have
to choose between "boxers or briefs" reveals the great lengths society has
trained women to go, to be physically acceptable, compared men who do little, or
The user male in the poem "Odds
Are" is vividly described as a parasitic primate addicted to gambling and
manipulation "when the last love jockey rode off with her winnings."
Her use of metaphor is most amusing.
Men are sharks in "Chum"; some men are Makos and Tigers. In “The Gardener,”
lovers are seasonal flowers that don't last long if clipped.
I strongly suggest this chapbook or
CD for the open-minded, pained and poetic. She uses great economy, piercing word
choices. No, it is not pretentious, it’s precision.
To buy a copy of her chapbook and/or
CD, contact Tish at
Jack Bowman is
Poetix News Editor, a published poet and co-host of Thursday Night Poetry in
So Cal poets, please
email me your reviews of a recently
published poetry book or chapbook in the body of your e-mail, along with your
one-sentence bio (250-word limit; please refer to the other reviews for format).