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State of the Union

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Poetry. "Full of laughter, a razor sharp eye, and a barrage of surprises, Susan Lewis's STATE OF THE UNION propels us through multiple registers of relation, never slackening or losing focus in her furious push toward a love poem worthy of a 'subject which has expired for lack of correct change.' From complexity which leads 'to one wandering eye & a convoluted appetite, ' Poetry. "Full of laughter, a razor sharp eye, and a barrage of surprises, Susan Lewis's STATE OF THE UNION propels us through multiple registers of relation, never slackening or losing focus in her furious push toward a love poem worthy of a 'subject which has expired for lack of correct change.' From complexity which leads 'to one wandering eye & a convoluted appetite, ' to simplicity which leads to 'albinism & and continuous irrepressible hum, ' Lewis's impeccable attention to the 'song of the illusive spheres' will leave you stunned and in stitches. It is an absolutely (disturbing) delight."--Michael Boughn


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Poetry. "Full of laughter, a razor sharp eye, and a barrage of surprises, Susan Lewis's STATE OF THE UNION propels us through multiple registers of relation, never slackening or losing focus in her furious push toward a love poem worthy of a 'subject which has expired for lack of correct change.' From complexity which leads 'to one wandering eye & a convoluted appetite, ' Poetry. "Full of laughter, a razor sharp eye, and a barrage of surprises, Susan Lewis's STATE OF THE UNION propels us through multiple registers of relation, never slackening or losing focus in her furious push toward a love poem worthy of a 'subject which has expired for lack of correct change.' From complexity which leads 'to one wandering eye & a convoluted appetite, ' to simplicity which leads to 'albinism & and continuous irrepressible hum, ' Lewis's impeccable attention to the 'song of the illusive spheres' will leave you stunned and in stitches. It is an absolutely (disturbing) delight."--Michael Boughn

36 review for State of the Union

  1. 4 out of 5

    McKenzie Tozan

    Do you ever find yourself in a reading slump? Or too unreasonably busy to even consider finding a way to fit reading in? And when you finally do have the time and energy, do you find yourself searching for that writing style that just throws you back in, every time? Well, this summer, as I mentioned in some of my more recent posts, I have been going through a series of transitions: out of an MFA program and into full-time, one-year-old motherhood, and finding my place at my new place of work, an Do you ever find yourself in a reading slump? Or too unreasonably busy to even consider finding a way to fit reading in? And when you finally do have the time and energy, do you find yourself searching for that writing style that just throws you back in, every time? Well, this summer, as I mentioned in some of my more recent posts, I have been going through a series of transitions: out of an MFA program and into full-time, one-year-old motherhood, and finding my place at my new place of work, and there just hasn’t been much time for personal pleasantries such as reading, let alone writing something about it. But finally I have made the time, and I discovered a really wonderful poet who has reintroduced, thrown, and forced me back into the beautiful, haphazard, yet peaceful art of reading and writing: Susan Lewis. I spent some time with Lewis’s following three collections: State of the Union, How to Be Another, and This Visit, and while all different, her work largely capitalizes on rhythm, sound, and reinvention. To be quite honest, these qualities are not what I often look for in contemporary poetry anymore, because, while sound is still valued, and rhyme and rhythm are still indirectly employed, I do not often read poets who still demand these recurring sounds, and these pentameters, in their poetry. But when I read Lewis’s poems, I read them rapidly—I feel the need to read them rapidly, an urgency in the line—and the phrasal combinations, as well as internal and slant rhymes leave me reading these poems quickly, and with a poping enunciation. And while reinvention, internal examinations, and redefining are hardly a thing of the past in contemporary poetry (and wondrously, this is true whether we are discussing narrative or experimental poetry, and any form in-between), Lewis employs and demands this characteristic of each and every one of her poems. Looking at a poem such as “This is Not a Movie” from State of the Union, we see how Lewis employs reinvention and challenges the limits of playing with language and what can be said when a phrase is altered mid-sentence (whether incorporating a “naught” in parenthesis, implying that we could read it or omit it, or inserting an oppositional phrase after a comma, implying what could be an alternate universe in the poem—what is and what could be). THIS IS NOT A MOVIE but now & then it feels like one, & often has the same symptoms. With this overload of blurred identities, it may be advisable to drag our feet through the conceptual mud, a necessity devoutly to be resisted. Unless it’s preferable to jump ship & sink on our merits, like grief-stricken elephants. Which is not to say you shouldn’t arrive at your reunion prepared with garters, buckshot, & dungarees, in case the situation goes south & you’re feeling peckish. The man in the moon may bring his husband. As acolytes they are dry, sometimes even down in the mouth, but never dead in the water. Come to mama is what they might think, if they weren’t too worn & weathered to fall for anything an order of magnitude more inviting than this insidiously tempting razor’s edge. As you can see in this poem, the ability to reevaluate a phrase or surprise the reader is highly important to Lewis, and this is an admirable constant in her work. But not only do we see beautiful work being done at the level of the line, we also see, implied in the title, How to Be Another, the presence of the Other, the role of isolation, and even her challenging of relationship dynamics, which came to be some of the more important themes I searched for and prized in her work. If we reread “This is Not a Movie,” or even the upcoming poem, “Dig,” from How to Be Another, and look for these complicated relationship dynamics, or the role of isolation, or one or more figures presented as the Other, we will not be disappointed. The idea alone of being a “grief-stricken elephant” or coming prepared with “garters, buckshot, & dungarees, in case the / situation goes south” at a family or high school reunion is funny, interesting, and a little shocking to the senses. Knowing the heart-wrenching, almost-infamous level of grief felt by elephants, and pairing these feelings and preparations for the outdoors with a reunion makes the occasion feel that much less civilized and severe and suggests the physical level our emotions can reach when things go south, which isolates the reader (the “you”), as well as the narrator, who warns us of these possibilities. So too we see the level of isolation preserved in the relationship between the narrator and the addressed in “Dig,” through the physical act of digging and the passive, perhaps voyeuristic, act of watching. Through the withholding of information, of intimacy, of mutual ground, in the poem, the narrator is left with little but the ability to keep digging, with the hope of arriving at some sort of consensus when whatever is being searched for is found, if it does, in fact, exist. This concept, too, of existence, is an odd constant in these two poems and suggests not only the possibility of what could be that I mentioned earlier, but also that gnawing possibility that what we are expecting—things going south, or finding something in the ground—will never turn up… but it is, indeed, important enough that we must continue to hope or look for it, even if it will only ever be a haunting in our lives. Lewis’s ability to connect with her readers through these hauntings and desires is indisputable, and these moves, particularly in these two poems, have stayed with me, rigorously, over the past several weeks. DIG, is all you ever say, & I do, becoming ever grimier & less enlightened. If only I had a daughter; she would, no doubt, cheer me on. She would have good faith & long eyelashes, perhaps even a tiny butterfly tattooed beside the corner of her coy little mouth. I don’t know this; I’m just saying. Dig, you reiterate. Which revives my surprise that you have nothing else to do. In the past I have asked for justification—or, at the very least, suggestions. But answer came there none. I have asked for reassurance: a caress, or even the briefest wink. I have asked for a daughter, either plain or tattooed. Once, during our third or fourth eclipse, I thought you might speak. I wouldn’t mind any of it, if only you would tell me where to look. I have burrowed, you see, in every possible direction. So far, I have unearthed no secret treasure; no new perspective; no offspring of any kind; not even the slightest touch of your still unsullied, impossibly smooth, irresistibly trembling hand. Susan Lewis holds a lovely command of rhythm, sound, and the weird possibilities that enter our relationships and life events. Whether we are reading her prose poems, like “This is Not a Movie” or “Dig,” or we are admiring the line breaks and white space of her linear poems in This Visit, we are always thinking about our connection to the narrator and the imposed distance from everyone, and everything, else, reflecting that same isolation we may observe when moving through our own lives and being aware of our impact on others, and their impact on us. I found these poems to be wildly interesting and thought-provoking, and they have stayed with me for weeks since I closed these three books and left them on my desk until I could review them. Sometimes a writer will do something in their work that gets a tight hold on me, and Lewis’s ability to surprise me through the narrator’s reactions to average goings-on (the digging, the hunter’s gear) has such a tight hold on me, and I don’t want it to let go. These images are so vivid and, cliché or not, leap off of the page and challenge my perceptions. Whether you are struggling like I was to find time to read and enjoy, or if you are simply looking for the next book to buy for your shelves, get your shovels and travel gear ready, and look Susan Lewis up. I am so happy to say that I picked such an excellent writer to turn to for my first day back to reading and reviewing books, and I’m sure, with not the slightest sliver of doubt in my mind, that you’ll enjoy her work, too.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Heather Key

    Honestly...I am not impressed. I felt the content was ehh..."shrug" I get more from Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickenson.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Susan

  4. 4 out of 5

    Philip

  5. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Studdard

  6. 4 out of 5

    Simeon Berry

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Cole

  8. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Staples

  9. 5 out of 5

    Barry

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Stern

  11. 5 out of 5

    Gina Hignett

  12. 4 out of 5

    Mellow Pages Library

  13. 5 out of 5

    Katie Harder-schauer

  14. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  15. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Zitsch

  16. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sue

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pam Mooney

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ms. Reader

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tasha

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

  22. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  23. 5 out of 5

    Max

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tammy Pooser

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steph

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kay Butz

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Gillmore

  29. 5 out of 5

    Leah

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christina Borgoyn

  31. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

  32. 5 out of 5

    ed Lucas

  33. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Needelman

  34. 5 out of 5

    Maryanne

  35. 4 out of 5

    Scott Haraburda

  36. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

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