#poetrylive Roberto Carlos Garcia “amores gitano (gypsy loves)” wrap-up

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.

#poetrylive Sarah Freligh

So I just finished reading, and tweeting from, Sarah Freligh’s chapbook A Brief Natural History of an American Girl. You can read back through the tweets in the box on right. These 17 poems weave a story of a teenage woman’s sexual curiosity and discoveries, told reflectively from an older voice. The territory of how teen sex opens but also limits young women has been told expertly many times, although we still need more and more of these stories in a culture where the measure of sexual experience is the male orgasm, and where we have no word to describe sex that was legally consensual but left young women feeling violated, hollow, used only to give pleasure to someone else. We especially have no single word for the experience of a sexual interaction that both parties enjoyed, that a young women felt made her special or feel special, only to find the details smeared across her social world as dirty or shameful or as her having been “had.”

In the face of those silences, poems like Freligh’s matter. I think, too, of Joan Larkin’s crown of sonnets on this subject, or of Kathie Dobie’s memoir The Only Girl in the Car. The center of Freligh’s poems is not the sexual violence Dobie describes but another intense pain – becoming pregnant and giving the child away. Three of the seventeen poems take this on directly, but others in her emotionally dense book circle around the loss, including poems about her relationship to her mother and her mother’s death.

My favorite poem comes near the end, a tragi-comedy reflection on being a middle-aged woman:

Depending

The rooster no longer cocks
his doodle doo at me now

that I can’t hatch eggs.
Old hen: all fruitless

tubes and bristled
chin. Explaining

the sestina to freshmen
yesterday, I farted. What’s

next? Leak of urine, I guess,
unexpected, like the day

in eighth grade when I felt
the pinch of a tiny hand

wring my insides: the slide,
the trickle, the long walk

to the desk for a hall pass praying
nothing showed. Years later

when I’d say thank you,
Jesus
, or god damn.

You can buy the chapbook through Accents Publishing. You can find out more about Sarah (a former sports writer for the Philly Inquirer) here: Sarah Freligh