If you’ve been tweeting along, (Wait, is there a word for reading tweets? Does anyone read tweets, or just send them? Guess that will be another post?), you have a taste of passion contained in this dense little chapbook. What I loved most about going through it on a slower re-read is how the poems manage to be both specific and wide-open. Both the man and woman in the poems are so solid—in poem 16 we see “her white summer dress,/ soaked with sweat / rippling like a wet paper towel” and his “freshly ironed polo, / khaki shorts / & leather sandals.” And in these costumes we see too the reel in/toss out nature of this relationship; this poem ends as she comments about him, “You look like a man about to miss a moment.”
And yet even in the physicality and blatant sexuality of the poems there is an openness. Is the woman real? If so, is the affair real? Is the woman in the final poem or two about being married the same woman in the affair? Or is the woman not human at all, but Muse, resistant and flirting and insulting and inspiring? After all, in poem 15 “My eyes fixed / on the books / I love & loath / like an adulterer / his mistress, / I blame you for this.”
Most striking to me is how the chapbook form is being molded to become part of the overall trend of poetry collections that use individual lyric poems to create a narrative arc. While the first books in this trend tended toward personal memoir, the form keeps evolving to cover biography, history, and fiction. The form is so flexible at this point that the narrative arc can stretch through short collection or long, and amores gitano is a great example of how page length is in no way proportionate to the depth of the story or emotional impact.
What should you take from this review? Go buy some chapbooks. Take a risk. Thousands are published each year, and if poets don’t buy them, who will?
Next up in #poetrylive is the chapbook I bought when I ordered amores gitano, because the title grabbed me. All kinds of interesting things happening there. Follow along to see.