I love Susan Lewis’s new collection, How to Be Another from Cervena Barva Press. It is even more well-crafted, interesting and eccentric than Lewis’s other collections. I appreciated the protagonist becoming even more transparent; the story-like quality of these poems; the stronger narrative that exists compared to Lewis’s other books. In fact, in one of the first poems, “Forgive Me,” the narrator says, “Stay with me now, I am working on the courage to tell you something new, no matter how frightening or untrue” which I think is the perfect sentiment in which to frame this book. As the protagonist says in the poem “Sometimes” she wants to invent a new language for herself, a language which I am inspired by.
As usual, Lewis utilizes the same clever language, ironic humor, rhyme, rhythm, and puns that appeared in her other collections, but How to Be Another seems softer somehow, easier for the reader to relate to. The opening poem, “Dig,” especially struck a chord with me because the narrator spoke about her desire to navigate and come to terms with her current relationship and have a daughter, which I think is something so many people can relate to, myself included: ”If only I had a daughter, she would no doubt cheer me on.” I am certainly cheering Susan Lewis on as she continues to write and create such beautiful work. In the poem “Say Something” the poet asks her readers to “Just promise to listen.” And I am. The vivid descriptions reminded me sometimes of Margaret Atwood’s stories, (which is a great achievement, to be sure) and this is definitely my favorite collection by Lewis that I have read.