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LIFESCAPES by Lee Woodman



From the Scapes series

by Lee Woodman

Pub Date: June 1st, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-95-435350-3
Publisher: Kelsay Books

A collection of poems that chronicle a relationship from sweet beginning to bitter end.

Woodman begins this book with “Vermillion Suit,” a poem about a first date, involving a pediatrician and pinot grigio. Soon, however, the speaker’s autonomy and desires begin to fade as her partner’s routines and preferences take precedence. The union deteriorates further in “No More Sugar” as the author wonders, “What happened to bourbon / after theater, ice cream and TV?” Eventually, she laments that “Sex fails,” explaining that there’s “no carnal rise for a body stone-still.” The Covid-19 pandemic complicates the breakup in “2020 Upheaval,” resulting in Zoom-based court proceedings in “Digital Divorce.” The speaker relishes alone time in “What I Learned in Australia” and reminisces about a former lover, but by the next poem, “Fish Hearth,” she ruminates on that lover’s indiscretion and her devastation. She revisits a terrifying emergency room visit in “Heart Failure,” pledging “As long as I have strength / to hold us both up, we’re ok.” The speaker reveals her truths—being dangerously underweight, having an abortion, drinking vodka on the sly—in “Secrets I Tell Myself.” She concludes with a “Divorce Prayer,” wishing everyone fulfillment and joy. Throughout, the poet cites inspiration from literary legends such as Elizabeth Bishop, Allen Ginsberg, Sylvia Plath, and William Carlos Williams, among others. Woodman’s strengths lie in her inventive use of language, as in the passage “First impressions crossed our foreheads, / questions circled our ears” and descriptions of the “dead glassy stare” of a suicidal girl and the “luscious flesh” of women in a Eugene Delacroix painting. She expresses emotions in a raw, visceral way: “My heart is uncertain, / my anger convulsive. / My feet walk ahead / of my brain.” Her poetry is also sensual, as when a speaker details how “Warm fingers travel / the arch, nuzzling over / creamy hill and / strawberry nipple.” Indeed, few poems disappoint in this collection, although the current-events references in “Waiting,” about a doctor’s appointment, may quickly make it seem dated.

A streamlined, satisfying set of works about love and loss.