Banalities – Brane Mozetic/Handmade Love – Julie Enszler/Mute – Raymond Luczak (A Midsummer Night’s Press)

Buy all three of these titles at A Midsummer Night’s Press

Continuing our celebration of National Poetry Month, we take
up three slim, pocket-sized volumes sent by Lawrence Schimel of A Midsummer
Night’s Press—part of the Body Language Series. The books may be small, but
their words paint large, memorable portraits.

First up is the ironically titled Banalities, by
Slovenian poet Brane Mozetic. These 50 untitled pieces of Mozetic’s mind are
anything but banal, using pain and violence to unsettling effect, creating a
tense world of furtive harm and senseless assault, some on the narrator and
some inflicted by the narrator.

It’s
a good thing I kept my cool and didn’t kill you.

It
would make all the papers and perhaps my book

sales would
increase. In them, I killed you slowly,

piece by piece,
and others, the countless victims of 
the serial
killer within me.

Chillingly effective, Mozetic eases up this tension
periodically just to ratchet it up twice as far when you least expect it. These
poems skitter around your consciousness, running their sharp edges into the
most sensitive areas—prickly, but never pretentiously so. Their points have a
point.

Julie Enszler has points as well in her volume of Handmade
Love
, but they are more erotic and definitely more feminist. She stakes her
claim to this territory in her opener—the moving, reflective “When We Were
Feminists” where she contrasts the early days of feminism to today’s brand and
finds the modern version sorely lacking.

When
we were feminists, feminism was like cooking the

first meal
after grocery shopping. You know,

when all of the
vegetables have the patina of freshness.

When the fruit
feels firm, even weighty in your hand,

When the knife slides through perfectly from the right 




combination of resistance and
forgiveness.
 



When you cook
with the leisure of a weekend.
 



Now feminism is
like the meal you make five days after shopping
 



When you are
exhausted from working all day.
 



When you try to
perk up wilted red and green leaf lettuce
 



in a bath of cold water, 



When you coax
leftovers with salt and spices to make them
  



seem new and somehow fresh. 



When you cook
simply because you have to eat.

But Enszler doesn’t just concern herself with activists who
have sold out. Her erotic poetry (“First Kiss,” “Hibuscus”) is charged with
longing and she draws her inspiration from the damndest places (“Absolutely No
Car Repairs in the Parking Lot,” “I Give You a Diamond Ring at the Airport”).
All these influences work together to mold a multi-faceted yet consistent
poetic identity as political as it is sexual.

Sexual politics also rears its head in Raymond Luczak’s
wonderful “Mute,” exploring themes that elucidate what it’s like to walk
between the hearing and Deaf worlds. As with Enszler, Luczak puts his major
theme right out front in the first poem, “How to Fall for a Deaf Man”:

When
he comes across the floor,       

do
not ask his name with

exaggerated
lip movements.

A
simple “how are you” will do.

Do
not feel lost 
in
his eyes, worn thin by years

of
guessing the lip movements of strangers,  

and
wondering for weeks afterward

exactly
what they had said.     
 

Luczak negotiates this path between spheres with ease, his
language reflecting the pain and experience that purchased his facility
(“Waiting for You to Learn Sign Language,” “One Day When I Lose My Speech”) and
inform those pieces that are not about deafness at all (“Night Stroll in
Washington D.C,” “The Loom”). Luczak is a powerful poet whose work is as
important as it is beautiful.

And these are only three entries in this wonderful series
from A Midsummer’s Night Press—small meals on which you can graze to nourish
your heart and enrich your soul.

Eat one today.

Reviewed by Jerry Wheeler 

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