Butcher’s Sugar – Brad Richard (Sibling Rivalry Press)
To the One Who Raped Me – Dustin Brookshire (Sibling Rivalry
For the Comfort of Automatic Phrases – Jane Cassady (Sibling
Any season is great for reading poetry, but autumn for me is
a particularly brilliant time. It’s always been, for me at least, a time of
change, of reflection, of celebrating the simplest of pleasures. Like words.
But the simple words of poets convey some mightily complex ideas, and these
fine volumes are but a few of the voices out there.
Many of those voices are being introduced to the world by
Bryan Borland through the very fine Sibling Rivalry Press, quickly becoming the
benchmark for quality poetry. Brad Richard’s Butcher’s Sugar is among
the best of that benchmark. Richard, like many gay poets, concerns himself with
sexuality and secrets, but his work is of a more sensual nature—not erotic, but
more of the senses. His subjects smell, taste, see, and feel, so his poems are
very visceral in nature but suffused with dread, as in “The Child and His
Monsters,” or “Dead Tongues,” or “The Men in the Dark.” He outdoes himself,
however, in his chilling account of the murder of Nicholas West, “Eye-Fucking.”
gun came out, easy in my hand/
I walked up smiling, like he and I/
just two old buddies, took the safety off/
eye-fucked him, passing the barrel
slow from eye to eye. He was about to pass out/
don’t you know he couldn’t help but watch.
This horrific incident is told from the point of view of one
of the murderers, and it is absolutely harrowing. It is so powerful, in fact,
that it took some work to come down for it for the next piece.
But Richard does not have the market cornered on harrowing
or powerful. Dustin Brookshire gives him some competition with his relatively
short but emotion-packed To the One Who Raped Me. Many of these poems
are short as well, but their brevity belies their punch. Many quote from
popular culture to underscore their horror. From “I Don’t Like to Say the Word
Rape” to “Law & Order: SUV,” these pieces flow together to tell the
story of the act, its aftermath and its lingering effects. One of the simplest
yet most emotional poems is “No Comedy from Tragedy.”
between my legs,/
left arm rests
on Paul’s right/
watch The Hills Have Eyes 2./
twist. Heart races. Mouth goes dry/
the guy cuts her pants./
laugh as he bends her over a table./
turn to see their faces.
This is strong stuff, no doubt. It would have been stronger
without the rape statistics quoted between the pieces. The reality of the stats
doesn’t match the reality of the situation or the raw veracity of the pieces
themselves, but that doesn’t mar the work itself, which is extraordinary.
Also extraordinary, but for entirely different reasons, is
Jane Cassady’s For the Comfort of Automatic Phrases. Her humor is warm,
genuine and poignant in such titles as “For Those About to Plan Weddings, We
Salute You” but she has a marvelous eye for finding poetic in the most prosaic,
as in “History of the Moon Pie, Memphis TN,” “Dear Ladies of the Plano, Texas,
Zumba Class,” and “Contents of a Chick-Lit Heroine’s Yard Sale.”
The latter is one of my favorites here:
that used to fit.
tube top, belonging to carefree younger sister.
school year book, his.
La Perla, purple, still in box.
globe from the tree lighting.
phone bedazzling kit, slightly used.
days of the week, missing Wednesday.
Cassady’s literary mash-ups are even more interesting, such
as “Beyonce is Better at Having Feelings Than I Am” and “Letter from the Divine
Whatever to the Newly Out,” with lyrics from Beyonce’s “Halo” and Lady Gaga’s
“Born This Way,” respectively, cut and pasted with a pointed sense of irony.
But Sibling Rivalry isn’t the only press putting out
wonderful words to enrich my autumn. There’s more to come in the second part of
my Fall Poetry Roundup.