Review by Christian Ward
by Laurie Blauner
Cherry Grove Collections
P.O. Box 541106
Cincinnati, OH 45254-1106
2008, 84 pp., $18.00
Seattle based writer Laurie Blauner’s Wrong is a collection of lyrical poems well worth reading. Blauner has a refreshingly original voice and is unflinchingly honest in her writing, two qualities which I admire in a poet.
Divided in three sections entitled “Weightless,” “Allegations” and “Snap and Crackle,” the poems in Wrong explore the human condition to help make sense of the emotions felt by the speaker in her experiences.
Blauner uses metaphors of weightlessness to question the certainty of life and show us how nothing is what it seems. Natural phenomenons such as weather, for instance, are personified and sexualized. Even the human body is not immune and is shown in many different forms, like the reflections seen in a magic mirror.
The naked male body is “pornographic as the wind’s touch” and an “abandoned ship” in “The Emperor’s Wife” and is gradually transformed into a symbol of abandonment by the speaker, who realizes that it is empty as “the suggestion of vows and smiles” and chooses to stay even though she won’t be able “to stop him from walking out that door.”
This questioning continues in the poem that follows, “Glass Houses,” which deals with the subject of birth. The concrete imagery of nurses and surgeons that opens the poem (“The world was made of white aprons”) is juxtaposed next to those of distortion (“People the shape of guitars,” “grimaces from funhouse mirrors”) reinforcing the idea that nothing in this world is completely real. The speaker extends this line of thought to include family (“A mother more cloud than human”).
Blauner’s ear for rhythm comes into its own with poems such as this, the alliteration in the first stanza creating a soothing music when read aloud, contrasting the disturbing imagery.
Whilst Blauner uses images of weightlessness to make sense of an uncertain world, we also see them used in poems that discuss the soul, such as “Of All the Little Intrigues” (“We have what’s left of you and it’s weightless”) and “Allegory about A Bird” (“How can I catch what can’t sleep?”).
The experience of unhappiness is often described in Wrong and Blauner must be given credit for dealing with it without sentimentality, choosing instead to illustrate it with intelligent, thoughtful metaphors such as “trying to pass off these plates as real china” (“Prelude to Lying About My Ex-Husband”) and as a lake with “not enough light for fish” (“Rudimentary Unhappiness”).
Blauner is raw and candid when it comes to dealing with subjects such as affection and intimacy, using images of weather, nature and the human body to show us the emotional fallout that happens when a relationship falls apart. Clouds, for example, are used as a metaphor in “Geographical Confession” to represent the desire to avoid intimacy (“my husband waits for my kiss. I blink / in the dismantling landscape, watching clouds linger”).
Whilst Blauner must be commended for her imaginative metaphors, strong sense of rhythm and conciseness of language, there is one flaw in her writing which must be addressed; that of clichés such as “the writing on the wall” (“The Sudden Appearance of Blue”), “fighting tooth and nail” (“Growing Closer to My Symptoms”), “sown my wild oats” (“Another Conversion in These Times of Extreme Emptiness”) and “safety in numbers” (“Still Life with an Imaginary Infant”). These tired phrases contribute little to the poetry and should have been weeded out during redrafting.
Laurie Blauner’s Wrong is worth buying for her voice alone. Her style is unlike any other poet, combining an extraordinary sense of image, rhythm and language to produce poems that explore and celebrate the human experience. Even if you’re not a fan of lyrical poetry, you’ll still find something to enjoy here.
Christian Ward is a 28 year old London based poet whose poetry has appeared in publications such as Diagram, The Kenyon Review and Poetry Salzburg Review. His chapbook, Bone Transmissions, is forthcoming in March 2009 courtesy of Maverick Duck Press.