REVIEW: daryl hall is my boyfriend by erica lewis

daryl hall is my boyfriend ends with erica lewis's process notes, a section that's not necessary to read before embarking on the journey but it’s helpful nonetheless:

There are specific memories attached to Hall and Oates songs…the title daryl hall is my boyfriend suggests both an intimacy with the past and a distance from the past. I grew up listening to Hall and Oates, but these poems are not ‘about’ their songs or what they ‘mean,’ but rather what the songs trigger and mean to me now.

I'm pairing that with a note I wrote in the margins of the poem "the ways and means are the parts subject to change": what is it about music that transports us and triggers memories from a time or place so easily and effortlessly?

To lewis, daryl hall is aptly a symbol or stand-in for a boyfriend -- not the guy you spend summers with learning his ins and outs and everything about but the memory of him. The idea of sharing. The feeling the memories give. You think you know everything about him and soon discover all of the things you don't. You realize all of the things you'll never understand about him, about memory, of course, and yourself in the middle of all these reflections:

you can't be turning me on and off again

it's hard not to notice

how you wear the feelings of one person modified by another

in the feelings of one person modified by another

i feel peculiar noticing this

Although lewis has never met Hall, I believe that her intimacy with his music runs through the disjointed narrative of her memory and, at one time, the narrative of her present. It's a sad moment in the poems when the speaker acknowledges (time and again) that every living moment on this earth becomes memory almost the moment you live it:

but everything together yes everything we do is about moving forward

only sometimes/ all you ever capture is that feeling in your chest

The present becomes the past the minute you breathe it. We are all trying to hold onto something that is so quickly slipping away, something no one has ever figured out how to hold onto. Everything we experience comes to us in lag, it's delayed.

pretend that words can make a humanness between us

you say, "see here, we are in a moment" 

and i say, except on the page where it happens always

The most evocative part of lewis’s poetry in this collection is her usage of blank space, how the caesura inhales and exhales, like memory in between the melodies and verses of all the same songs we know, we love, and that trigger in us specific feelings:

ghosts speak between the beats

like a heartbeat, drives you mad

A chord struck in a familiar song can feel like time travel sometimes, and lewis contends with what this does to us, how we remember, and push back against how memory can be so slippery. Like time. Like reality. Like all else. 


When I would drop into readings hosted by Brown University (back when I lived in the same neighborhood), it seemed that the students were expected to ask the visiting poet questions about their work. All of the students had read the work (presumably for a class) and had their copies in hand at the Q & A. There was always someone in the audience who would ask the poet about the usage of one particular word. They would say something like “I noticed you said the word shoelace 36 times in your collection, can you speak more about that?”


At the risk of sounding like one of these students (who sounded, to me, like someone trying to get participation points), I noticed that lewis mentions ‘origami’ enough for it to recur and spark my interest. I love the juxtaposition between origami and time/memory -- origami begins with a single sheet of paper, crinkled and folded into different shapes. Sometimes a crane, sometimes a plane, sometimes a lotus blooming. The shapes change but the material is still the same, the stuff that memory is made of. Memories are always shifting, who we are is always fleeting, but so long as we hold onto the idea that the pleats don't define it, I think we're going to be OK.  


NEWS: The World is My Rival Featured in the Largehearted Boy Playlist Series

When I was an intern at Soft Skull Press, I reached out to David Gutowski, aka Largehearted Boy, all the time for promotional help on titles I was working on. It felt very big-time to email him on behalf of myself and my book, and I nearly fainted when he was cool with me making a playlist for The World is My Rival.

Check out the playlist and my musings on the music here:

NEWS: The World is My Rival Launch Party - August 24, 2018 from 7-9pm at Uptown Arts Bar in KCMO

Birthing a book is insane. I hope I don't offend anyone by calling it "birthing," but it really is a labor of love, a process of waiting to see what comes of all this time and energy, and a nurturing to make sure its well received in the world (or really, just received).

Moving to Kansas City, I didn't know anyone except my boyfriend, but I've been lucky to link up with some amazing humans who happen to be talented poets. I am honored they've agreed to read with me on Friday, August 24th at the Uptown Arts Bar, a venue almost every writer I've met so far says is a staple of the Kansas City literary scene, to celebrate The World is My Rival (my first book')s birthing into this world. The writers who will be reading with me are: Mercedes Lucero, Courtney Faye Taylor, and Cassandra Gillig. Join us from 7-9pm. There's no cover but books and drinks will be for sale. You can tip your poets and you should definitely tip your bartender. RSVP on the Facebook event here so your phone reminds you to attend. See you there!


REVIEW: In the Garden of Broken Things by Mercedes Lucero

I had the pleasure of meeting Mercedes Lucero at the recommendation of another poet who I recently met. Knowing we were going to chat about poetry, I wanted to make sure I knew a little bit about her work, headed to Raven Book Store in Lawrence, KS, and scooped up her chapbook In the Garden of Broken Things on Flutter Press.

Every poem in this short collection is a catalog of broken things, things you forget are capable of breaking and things that are always referred to as broken, but under a different lens. There's the breaking up, breaking down, breaking rules. Broken arms and fingernails. Broken down cars. There's also this personal breaking that feels so familiar, the broken we all can say with certainty we've known at least once in our lives: "Sometimes we feel as if we're broken on the inside, but we can't really say why. Sometimes we wonder if we'll ever feel unbroken."

To me, what's so attractive about these poems isn't the broken things, but the tone used to present them. These shining broken badges are shared with me as though I am a close friend, a personal confidante, someone looking in from a completely non-voyeuristic perspective. It's casual but also complex in its retelling. 

My only qualm with the chapbook is that it is merely a chapbook! There are so many broken things, a flourishing garden, and when the book ended, I wanted to read the archives of more broken things that Lucero elucidates for us. This is not to say the book ends abruptly, but rather, it ends so poignantly and perfectly, I'm aware I am to be content with it: "Our father pointed to the beavers amid the sludge of broken sticks and mud and grass. They would only carry small handfuls at a time. It will take them forever to rebuild it, we said. Our father stood silent for a long time, then sighed and said yes, but that's what we do with broken things, isn't it?" If that doesn't hit you, either you're incapable of fracture or you're already broken deep.

Mercedes has a phenomenal new book out as well called Stereometry. This is the book I was supposed to get, because I said I would purchase her latest, but I figured it could not possibly be a poetry book because it comes neatly packed with a pencil and pencil sharpener and other supplies. I first spotted it in an art store and thought maybe she was also a conceptual artist or something—this is indeed a poetry book, but also conceptual in a different way, allowing the reader to follow along to mathematical-influenced exercises that correlate to the poetry inside.

On August 24 from 7-9pm, Mercedes will also be reading poetry with myself, Courtney Faye Taylor, and Cassandra Gillig at the Uptown Arts Bar in Kansas City to celebrate the release of my poetry collection, The World is My Rival, from Spuyten Duyvil Publishing.