Thursday, February 28, 2008

"This Elizabeth" will kick your Elizabeth's ass

So I just finished Lesley Yalen's "This Elizabeth," and it, my friends, is good. I've had many an argument regarding the necessity for poetry to be narrative. My point? It doesn't need to tell a story to take you on a journey. But that is neither here nor there. What is here is #2 in an edition of 200 (I'm slightly proud of that, if you can't tell) of Ms. Yalen's book, and it is surprisingly narrative in that way a good stand-up comedian is. Comedians don't just tell jokes, they create a space in which repetition and your everyday catch you totally off guard, they guide you into funny, carry you across the threshold to a place where a single idea or phrase can become the most hilarious thing you have ever heard.

And so it is with this poem. People, places and all sorts of other nouns keep popping in and out. All at once these street people, kitchen people, specialists and matinées appear both inconsequential and the sole reason the world keeps going. Yalen begs you to notice the mundane, but in pointing it out, she makes you realize how much awesomeness we never take out of our bags, makes you long for that awesomeness. The experience of reading her book is just like having three tubes of chapstick sitting in your change tray at home but having really chapped lips driving in your car to Minneapolis (I've never wanted anything so bad as any of those chapsticks as I did right then).

It's easy to call an artwork subtle, especially when we don't quite get it, but I feel like I get this book; its' purpose, its' goals, its' reason for being, and I have to say that the most amazing thing about this book is its' gentle nature...its' subtlety. Example, "A loved one is like a sound/ compounded over time/ by another sound"

My favorite poetry is poetry that isn't satisfied with the words we have to explain, well, everything. Yeah, I can say I love you, but what does that mean? It's a gesture, and one that does nothing to explain how I fell about you. Yalen's poetry is after a better explanation, she is taking a walk and lucky for us someone asked her how it was. But where a lesser person would say, "Oh, I saw homeless people, people chatting in their kitchens, a few signs, and the sky was blue and big," she gives us, "This Elizabeth."

You can buy it here:

Please go and do it...I beg you.

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