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.