The Wilderness, Sandra Lim

TheWilderness_mech_F.inddGoosebumps. Goosebumps everywhere, people. In her second book of poems, Sandra Lim offers readers a quiet, yet daring book. It’s chilling, thoughtful, and full of beautiful, yet grotesque images. One of the poems that really warmed me up to this collection was “Envoi: Lazarus.”

“Lazarus woke to the miracle of no longer fearing failure. / He lifted his two sides from the ground as he tried / To speak, one part gathering darkness, one part humming” (lines 1-3).

I really love the simplicity of this poem, and the contemplative tone that seems to be behind many of the poems in The Wilderness.

One of the more playful poems in the collection is titled “At The Other End Of A Wire” and reads “When he called, there were 261 emotions / at play. I thought there was only wistfulness, / humiliation, and mere bitterness left, but lo / I see now the brilliance in the numbers” (lines 1-4).

As a poet, I avoid numbers at all costs, but the playful and unique use of numbers in “At The Other End Of A Wire” to capture a tough conversation that the speaker is having is beautiful and captivating. Other poems in this collection that I enjoyed were “Snowdrops,” “The Vanishing World,” and “The Dark World.”

The entire collection is 96 pages, which are split into four sections. The cover is dark, yet fascinating and eerie, which matches the tone of many of the poems in the collection. Prepare to spend some time with this one, because the poems are oftentimes philosophical, so it is not to be rushed through. And why would you want to, anyway? The poems are too good.

(Photo Courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company)

Buy the collection here.

Sad Math, Sarah Freligh

mcp-frelighWhile in Chicago, I picked up the collection Sad Math by Sarah Freligh. Standing in the bookstore Women and Children First, my first thought was Holy Shit. I couldn’t wait to buy this collection, and I had an especially hard time putting it down to search for others in the store. The first poem I read is the first poem in the collection, and it’s titled “Starting With An Old Photo Of My Mother And Ending On A Hill.” The first line reads “She is red-lipped and slender in a shirt- / waist dress, bun of hair hidden / under a white hat” (lines 1-3). The use of color, the descriptions, and the line breaks are well timed, powerful, and evocative. The poem, which is in a lot of ways a character sketch of the speaker’s deceased mother, ends just as powerfully:

They’re as blank as grief can be, the emptiness

of a parking lot ten minutes after the shift’s

let out, a dandelion in the cracked

asphalt waving at the trail of exhaust

from the last car to leave (lines 29-33).

Damn. I needed to put it down; otherwise, I would have started sobbing in the store. What’s amazed me in the past week while reading this collection is how strong the speaker is. The voice throughout demands to be heard, and it doesn’t disappoint. Many of poems offer readers a powerful commentary about womanhood in a stark and striking way: “When he slipped / his tongue into my mouth, / I could feel the old dog / of his heart rear up and tug / at its leash” (lines 15-19). There is not a poem in this collection that I don’t love. Each one is more powerful than the next, funny and daring. In just three sections (70 pages total), these poems will hit home for anyone who has ever experienced loss, sympathized with womanhood, and experienced sexual abuse.

I have to also add something about the book cover and title. The title is what originally brought me to the collection. Sad math? What? Freligh doesn’t reveal where the title comes from until the last poem in the book, which leaves you wanting more (I’m greedy. Give me all the poems). The book cover grabs your attention because it is both whimsical and nostalgic.

Photo courtesy of Moon City Press.

Buy the book here:

The Sonnets, Sandra Simonds

sonnetsIf being a woman in the 20th century with a poetry collection that is titled The Sonnets isn’t brazen enough, then using the word fuck 19 times in one poem has to be. Poet Sandra Simonds apologizes for nothing. If you’re looking for a speaker that is bold, surprisingly blunt, and funny, this is your collection. Reading the poem, “Ducks Floating Serenely across Pond Makes Scenery Serene” on a gloomy Monday morning captured my spirit and made me laugh. Check out the following lines: “Fuck all I say I say fuck all. / Fuck fruit fuck man fuck beast fuck herb,” (lines 1-2).

No, really.

That’s only the beginning of the poem, and it only gets better from there: “Fuck the octopus, the kangaroo, / the summer grass, idiotic and swirling” (lines 11-12). The reason I loved this poem so much is because it gets to the point, it’s hilarious, and it just feels good to read. This is one of those poems that could have easily gone wrong if placed in a different section of the book or if the speaker in the collection wasn’t consistent, but it’s thoughtfully placed.

Another poem that I enjoyed from this collection is “Come Back” which reads, “This is not the way a good woman / should be reserved but I’m all impulse / and want to show you my house and my garden see” (lines 4-7). The speaker is sarcastic and desperate, funny and serious.

The Sonnets utilizes unexpected techniques such as inserting hearts between the lines (read “I Love You So So So Soooooo Much”), putting an entire link in the middle of a poem (check “Collapsible Sledgehammer”), while also telling you to “Google it” in line 5 of “Lace Clouds over House over House over House over House.” I’m obsessed with this collection, people. Other poems I enjoyed were “Golden Buddha,” “Come Back!” “Camp Vagina Lake,” “Master of Fine Arts” and every other goddamn poem in the collection because it’s fucking brilliant.

The cover also looks great. First off, matted cover. That shit just feels good to hold (Hugs Book). Secondly, the title is in giant bolded letters, which are juxtaposed with the dark gray background. The entire collection is 77 pages, and compromises four sections. Every poem in the collection is 14 lines.

Can’t get enough of Simonds? Her new collection, Steal It Back is now out. Buy it here (I’ll be reviewing Steal It Back as soon as my copy comes in (SO EXCITED). Also, follow her on Twitter. She’s hilarious and it’ll make your day.

Photo courtesy of Bloof Books.

Buy The Sonnets here.