Thursday, November 13, 2014

Susan Lewis’s State of the Union

This is a book that inspired so many questions in me. More questions than answers, but as I have said, this often makes for the best of books—texts that make us wonder stir something in us that books which only make us marvel cannot.

These prose poems vary in many ways, though there is a consistent voice throughout. I wondered many things, including: Is this small book a social commentary for the current political climate? Or is it a love story regarding the “union” of two lovers? Could it be both? Indeed, a “she and a “he” is present here. Are there multiple storylines; speakers; address circuits? In lines like, “…’Til the next something about our society fails us. We shouldn’t like to boast of what shackles us…” or “Bite down, he repeated, unable to stop foaming at the mouth, meaning to imply something about the government, the nature of privacy, and metaphysics in an intertextual world…” I tended to think that the book was largely a social commentary, and then I read poems like “This Time I Promise” or “He Said, She Said” and I thought love story.

This book employs pithy, sharp language and word-play; sophisticated vocabulary, and well-placed similes. Thoughtful titles lead into the poems, and even some humor find its way in. There is rhyme and rhythm here, though much of the book is reminiscent of language poetry. Many insights and realizations exist here. I love lines like, “No thanks to our piddly rituals—like that mourning shower, the like of which can never cleanse our stubborn sorrows.” Or, “…This is how the perfect human separates. Dressed for the age, addressed by the sage & drenched in rage, with no end of questions. This is why the perfect human tries again.”   

With lines like these, we see that though the book is largely serious and somewhat melancholy in tone, it has its moments of light and lightness, which I think most books need to be successful.

Please check out Susan’s website here, and you can buy State of the Union here.

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