What So Cal Poets are Reading

Edited by liz gonzález


Borrowed Dress
by Cathy Colman

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 care.


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 and Consultant.



Female Flying Solo (Chapbook & CD)

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 nothing.


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 tisheast@aol.com.


Jack Bowman is Poetix News Editor, a published poet and co-host of Thursday Night Poetry in Pasadena.

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). 

Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach