Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Goodbye With A Fist
The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise has quite the list of accolades, including the 2013 Isabella Gardner Poetry Award and the 2013 James Laughlin Award. And it bites. Yes, you read that right: it bites.
Weise writes angry, brash, and sometimes brutally. This is a book with several chips on its shoulders. Very punk rock, very get off, very Bukowski. There is nothing pretty here. You have to bring the pretty with you as a reader and press insert. This book is like a wounded dog backed into a corner with the fur on its neck standing up. It's not growling, it's not barking; it is snorting and snotting in rage and almost malice.
But despite this don't-get-too-close stance: it is also intimate. Bitterly intimate, but still intimate. For instance, in "The Ugly Law":
... The maimed shall not
therein or thereon expose himself or herself
to public view under penalty of staring,
pointing, whispers, aphorisms such as "We are all disabled"
or "What a pretty face you have" or "God gives
And this, from "Poem for his Ex":
Does it make you feel better
to know he cheated with a handicapped
girl? I wonder if you have
any handicapped friends.
I don't know why I'm using that word.
It demoralizes me. Or if you don't.
This intimacy (which doubles as bitter advocacy, the way many African American poets write about slavery) serves to soften the hardness of this collection. So does the fact that it is arranged like a theatrical play. The table of contents is sectioned off into One, Intermission, Two, and Curtain Call.
For me, the most captivating things in this collection happen when Weise steps away from the confessional flavor of sex and amputeeism and assumes characters to reveal the deeper workings of her mind. The intermission section reads like a lonely but insightful meditation on modern human relationships. The Book of Goodbyes shows us what Bukowski would have written if he were female.
Get The Book of Goodbyes at Amazon.
Legal Disclosure: I have no affiliation with this author and did not receive anything for this review.