I have been a longtime fan of Allie Marini Batts—both of us have been published through the same press, ELJ Publications, and she is someone I consider to be a worthy comrade in the poetry world. You Might Curse Before You Bless is just as wonderful as Batt’s other work. The poems here are expertly crafted and the narrative is one which draws the reader in completely. We see a narrator who is navigating the harsh and often foreign roads of a break-up; the strange terrain of being emotionally, mentally and physically uprooted. We get down to the nitty gritty, hard truth; we climb inside the narrator’s head, and we as readers are certainly not displaced, even if the narrator may be “Lost here like a Clash song” in poems like “24-Hour Safeway, Copper Point Road“ we are not.
Allie utilizes contemporary as well as historical references. She carries on a dialog between herself and her ex lover(s); and she carries on a dialog between herself and her other selves throughout the text, like in the poems “What You Will Remember” or “A Tyranny of Rules.”
Allie also uses visual art to spur her work; ekphrastic poetry makes a delicate and skillful appearance in this book in poems like “Impressionist Paintings”:
Pre-Raphaelite, she is painted in perfect strokes
if not in your memory,
in the jealous aesthetics of my Decadent heart
“Helen” is also a nod to visual art:
green eyed monster in bed with us
red ringlets like a Rossetti float over perfect breasts
turpentine her tresses, paint myself into your past
Allie works with mythology and astrology as well, such as in poems like “Venus in Retrograde”:
My body is a starry thing, the zodiac and heaven of you mapped out
on my limbs
The narrative is strong here, but the nods to the personal are not very frequent in Allie’s work; there is not as strong of a connection between the poet and the speaker as with some poets, such as, let’s say, Sylvia Plath or Anne Sexton. But when the personal does appear it compliments Batt’s eclectic use of voice as a poetic device. “Without a Care for Seatbelts” seems especially raw and personal:
We were young then, you and I.
I miss that us, convertible top down,
blazing the canopy roads at dizzying speeds.
Your hair trapped the sunlight.
That was before I put a wedding band on your finger
and we suddenly became old, careful drivers.
The last poem in the collection seems to be carry on a dialog with this poem, as I mentioned previously:
I never wore a wedding band
my ringfinger feels too light
now that we are no longer married.
I am grateful to Allie for sharing this book with me and with the rest of the literary community. I look forward to her forthcoming books to see what other kind of magic she will be able to summon from the page.