Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A lipstick smeared sledgehammer

Invisible Sister by Jeffrey Ethan Lee

"Invisible Sister" is a sunburst of pain and pleasure in stained glass world. I used to believe that a poem was "but a thought complete." Then I met Jeffrey Ethan Lee's "Invisible Sister." I feel like I've just discovered that the world is round, blue and beautiful.

In the Prologues, "Invisible Sister" is delicate and elegant as much for what is on the page as isn't. It's paced neatly by clean white spaces between tasty chunks of text. It's propelled by the senses, exploring race, sex, coming of age, violence, loneliness (and its opposite), and enough pain to be noir - a real, dark, and gritty experience of insufficiency.

The second portion of book, the title poem, is the elephant in the room. Iris is a soul that at the same time everyone knows, wants to know and never will know. She's the invisible sister, an icon and the victim of fragmented postmodern life and insanity. The very incompleteness of these fragments is a kind of gravity drawing in the mind, making the story tighter, and sharpening its hooks. There is nothing subtle about this descent into darkness; after all, "girls had exclamation marks instead of dicks" (p.24). If the Iris in your life pushed a little too far away from the sunlit center of reality, you already know how the story ends. If you don't know or you just like watching the dominos fall, then you must read this book. The next time the phone rings at 4 a.m. (p.37), you'll think of this poem as your hand touches the receiver.

Some of the work is presented as a pair of voices, each with its own story, and together making a strange harmony. This dialogic lyric makes for excellent punctuation in the greater storyline {especially in "4 a.m. phone call from my sister" (p.37)}, but difficult when used too much in "Iris returning after five mostly wasted years" (p.57).

Here the sensory content, depth, lush voice and quality of the poetry by itself is all that is necessary and sufficient to define a world of immeasurable beauty, fragility and elegance with the punch of a lipstick smeared sledgehammer.

So, yes, this makes you the poet, and me - the audience. A very good read.

Monday, November 13, 2006

A really, really good read

An excellent anthology of time travel stories. All of the stories are classics. This mix of authors and stories seems to be perfectly chosen because they are still contemporary and speak to today's more selective readers. A reader of any age will enjoy this compilation. Younger readers will find this broad range of stories especially tasty. The best one in my opinion is the "Love Letter" by Jack Finney. This story captured my imagination when I was in grade school and its sense of adventure, magic and romance never left me. That was something I have been able to pass along to my child because of this very nice anthology.