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Contemporary Poetry and Poetics




There are many ways to be separate,
and Bobbi Lurie
examines them
in her new book
Letter from the Lawn.

Perhaps the poet must always write from the condition of solitude so that thoughts will knit themselves together in the interstices of existence.  This generated, private space affords a share of necessary perspective, and perhaps — rather than the muse — it mothers new poems. 
    Of course, the natural human condition is one of nearly insurmountable isolation.  I have expressed it as an imprisonment in the skull, an inability to get into the minds of others, but that is an oversimplification.  Humans need bodily proximity.  We need to associate with other people.  We need relatives and lovers.  We need audiences and music and store clerks with smiles, because loneliness is a disease that is unbearable and can be fatal.
    There are many ways to be separate, and Bobbi Lurie examines them in her new book Letter from the Lawn.  The book opens with separateness.  “Suburban Hermits,” in their manifest isolation, “tinker in their tool sheds.”  In “Weeding,” the discomforts of gardening are suffered, and we see the classic separation between people and nature, which “loves weeds more than flowers.”  How strange and pervasive it is to feel so apart from nature — so much at odds with our origins.
    In “Only at Dusk Is It Possible to Love the Landscape,” once again the scene is a suburban neighborhood.  This time the neighborhood imprisons the woman in her house, and comfort is sought in that isolation: “the prettiness of the kitchen increases when i think  of the neighbors who hate us.  The poem concludes: “i dread the days. / the nights so fearfully quiet.”  And in the title poem, the voice — which is the lawn—or it is ‘B’ writing from her position on the lawn — is alone:  “Dear Green, / I sit in the back with my book . . . / The separateness is so intense.”
    As the book turns to other subjects the separateness seems to become buried, and more sunken into experience, but never ceases to be the horizon note.  “Linoleum” is an intriguing poem.  We see the husband and wife chopping vegetables and sautéing garlic for dinner.  The poem begins, “He is standing in his kitchen laughing with his wife about me.”  Here is the separateness of observing  as life happens, yet in this poem the observer imagines herself to be there ethereally, a subject in the minds and words of the couple.
    It is the condition of being outside where the author finds inspiration, and even comfort.  This is clear in “The Door Opens Slightly.”  The observer peeks through the cracked door to see a tenderness between lovers, a moment not intended to be watched.  They sit at a table set with one coffee cup.  The woman stirs the man’s coffee.  She kisses him “softly // as if his lips / are sacred texts.”   But the scene, so much like a movie, is brief.  Wind closes the door and the observer is left standing… “like space // between trees,” never the doer, always the watcher.  She cannot act as a delicate lover, cannot seem to possess a moment of acute tenderness, but she recognizes the occasion, is riveted, and reveals it to her readers.
    Letter from the Lawn is a fine book of poetry with much more to be discovered in the reading.  The wisdom of this book is found in the way the author remains in her loneliness, or separateness, or isolation.  She remains the still observer, making time or space the separation that colors her subjects poetic.

Letters from the Lawn, Bobbi Lurie. Custom Words, 2006. ISBN: 1933456264 $17.00


© by Peggy Miller


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