LINES OF SIGHT

A compelling set of poems that would benefit from less rigid experimentation.

A shape-shifting debut poetry collection by Pavlakis.

This book opens by asking fallen soldiers to “Come up, boys. / Come up from your moldy graves.” From there, readers begin to ride the fast current of the author’s poetry. Alternating between traditional verse, heaped lines, and poetic structures that recall those in the famous avant-garde poetry magazine L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, the author’s poems have a dynamism that’s similar to that of poet Ron Silliman’s The New Sentence. But although the poems propel readers forward, they never really arrive at a destination. The text is riddled with too many clichés—so many that it feels intentional—such as “Now is the ever-present / that is never done. / Now is a piece of always” or “Is a lifetime just that—a life of time?” Although the platitudes run freely, readers will continue on, ambling toward nowhere—deeper into the mind of the speaker, who never shines through the force of his poesis. Indeed, poesis is lacking here—particularly one that would use these formal experimentations to create something other than what contemporary conceptual poetry has already given us. For instance, “Know What I Mean?” emulates Stéphane Mallarmé’s A Throw of the Dice without using any of the white space of the opposite page as a canvas, and in “Wholeness,” the line breaks are just as jarring as they would be in a Robert Creeley poem but never quite slap like a contemporary reader may expect them to do. In another instance, Pavlakis shows a compelling interest in narratological concerns: “the poet walks his unshaped thoughts / down dim, deserted idea drive / turns right on word avenue / passes weedy vacant lots / comes stunned / to dead end.” Thus the author puts a Joycean Leopold Bloom before the reader, moving on to a different linguistic field, but he never does anything with it. Readers are left hanging, waiting for some bold, loud, and syntactically irreverent linguistic matter to arrive. Overall, the poet has done an intriguing job of juxtaposing various forms of contemporary poetry, but he never allows himself to go the extra mile.

A compelling set of poems that would benefit from less rigid experimentation.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4809-8809-5

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Dorrance Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2019

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ONCE UPON A GIRL

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

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Keridan’s poetry testifies to the pain of love and loss—and to the possibility of healing in the aftermath.

The literary critic Geoffrey Hartman once wrote that literature—and poetry, in particular—can help us “read the wound” of trauma. That is, it can allow one to express and explain one’s deepest hurts when everyday language fails. Keridan appears to have a similar understanding of poetry. She writes in “Foreword,” the opening work of her debut collection, that “pain frequently uses words as an escape route / (oh, how I know).” Many words—and a great deal of pain—escape in this volume, but the result is healing: “the ending is happy / the beginning was horrific / so let’s start there.” The book, then, tracks the process of recovery in the wake of suffering, and often, this suffering is brought on by romantic relationships gone wrong. An early untitled poem opens, “I die a little / taking pieces of me to feed the fire / that keeps him warm / you don’t notice that it’s a slow death / when you’re disappearing little by little.” The author’s imagery here—of the self fueling the dying fire of love—is simultaneously subtle and wrenching. But the poem’s message, amplified elsewhere in the book, is clear: We go wrong if we destructively give ourselves over to others, and healing comes only when we turn our energies back to our own good. Later poems, therefore, reveal that self-definition often equals strength. The process is painful but salutary; when “you’re left unprotected / surrounded by chaos with nothing you / can depend on / except yourself / and that’s when you gather the pieces / of the life you lost / and use them to build the life you want.” The “life you want” is an elusive goal, and the author knows that the path to self-definition is fraught with peril—but her collection may give strength to those who walk it.

Therapeutic, moving verse from a promising new talent.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72770-538-6

Page Count: 196

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

Endings

POETRY AND PROSE

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

A slim volume of largely gay-themed writings with pessimistic overtones.

Poe (Simple Simon, 2013, etc.) divides this collection of six short stories and 34 poems into five sections: “Art,” “Death,” “Relationship,” “Being,” and “Reflection.” Significantly, a figurative death at the age of 7 appears in two different poems, in which the author uses the phrase “a pretended life” to refer to the idea of hiding one’s true nature and performing socially enforced gender roles. This is a well-worn trope, but it will be powerful and resonant for many who have struggled with a stigmatized identity. In a similar vein, “Imaginary Tom” presents the remnants of a faded relationship: “Now we are imaginary friends, different in each other’s thoughts, / I the burden you seek to discard, / you the lover I created from the mist of longing.” Once in a while, short story passages practically leap off of the page, such as this evocative description of a seedy establishment in Lincoln, Nebraska: “It was a dimly lit bar that smelled of rodent piss, with barstools that danced on uneven legs and made the patrons wonder if they were drunker than they thought.” In “Valéry’s Ride,” Poe examines the familial duties that often fall to unmarried and childless people, keeping them from forming meaningful bonds with others. In this story, after the double whammy of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hits Louisiana, Valéry’s extended family needs him more than ever; readers will likely root for the gay protagonist as he makes the difficult decision to strike out on his own. Not all of Poe’s main characters are gay; the heterosexual title character in “Mrs. Calumet’s Workspace,” for instance, pursues employment in order to escape the confines of her home and a passionless marriage. Working as a bookkeeper, she attempts to carve out a space for herself, symbolized by changes in her work area. Still, this story echoes the recurring theme of lives unlived due to forces often beyond one’s control.

Downbeat but often engaging poems and stories.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5168-3693-2

Page Count: 120

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2016

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