The mundane staples of modern life take on startling new meaning in Lerman’s (The Sensual World Re-remerges, 2010, etc.) inventive, ruminative book of poems.
Alive with Lerman’s desire to escape from “the manacles of money,” from “what’s in the news” and “the mill...that grinds out the fate of the world,” this wild collection of poetry seeks transcendence from the pedestrian modern world. With bizarre imagery and strange ruminations mingling with descriptions of everyday happenings, the poems derive their energy from the contrast between the ordinary and the unusual. Appearing with little warning or explanation are “ancient magicians” and “aliens” as well as irreverent mentions of gods, Greek myths, ancient superstitions and deft descriptions such as “a laborer in a sun-god suit.” Time plays an important role, not only in the poet’s unwillingness to conform to the “neat little packages of time that were delivered / with the dry goods and the milk,” but in frequent bouts of yearning for a past characterized by better sleep, greater confidence and, readers are led to surmise, greater happiness. Coupled with this nostalgia comes a fear of the future “because the minutes / of the last meeting show / that tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / was never really planning to be your friend.” Yet, the poems insist, that fear could be less frightening than our imaginations might have us believe: “At the time you were struggling...blossoms have begun appearing / on the windowsill.” However, as with that example, the exact nature of what the unstated character was evolving from or into is left unknown. Such vagueness is a recurring issue in the collection; even the poems structured as narratives often contain confusing jumps in action and more rumination than concrete detail. This haziness is similarly evident in the themes—wealth, conformity, routine—which are all examined and usually denounced, though Lerman offers little specific criticism and only the vaguest of solutions.
A bold but often nebulous collection that’s not too interested in the specifics.