Monday, January 03, 2011

Ballroom by Lyn Lifshin


Lyn Lifshin

March Street Press

ISBN 1-59661-1421


"it's like tuning into

distant stations. Or

an SOS alert, indelible

as lips or skin. Call

it ESP. If I didn't shudder,

your tango moving

toward me like a

brand, each place your

fingers touched,

indelible, a stain I

can't let fade"

Even the title is ambiguous. I suggest you do not "go into the night

lightly," Lifshin's poems dance us into/with a mad waltz, dipping and

the hesitation step the pauses ignite. Yes. I think of Bukowski, I also

think of Gertrude Stein and the women poets trying to partner, trying

to lead. But in actuality there is no one who writes like Lyn Lifshin.

Maybe a poet has written a few poems that have similar expressions

but there is no one who sustains, has the living focus or experiential

mood in varied effects within so many poems and each poem holds

the moment, provokes eternal, "…like a woman composing her self

like a licorice mare…" Our great grandchildren will be reading her

work. Lifshin parades her self in front of us and we can either except

or sit on the side lines while she dances without apology:




they must imagine, I

mean even if they'll

never see what's

mysterious as the

mystical. Could

they not wonder

about that bracelet

of dark hair around

the bone. Or even

wonder about hair

around the other bone.

Even married to

Jesus wouldn't

they maybe even

dream what's under

some man's dark

jeans or cotton

as I can't help but

feel the outline

deep in tango,

so close bodies

move as one"

This book is a testament for and far more than any other woman

writer today she speaks, what we fantasize, think, how we feel,

especially, about freedom of expression without the vulgarities

of being specific:

"water pools in the

roses. My head's

under water in the

rouge blues. So

it's not raining

but it will be. This

blue Friday, a

roach I can't

escape without

a wall of them

burying me"

The first time I read Lyn's work, about five years ago, she sent a

packet of about fifty poems to the Wilderness House Literary Review,

as the poetry editor I was overwhelmed with her prolific writing, her

profound disregard for what anyone thought (?). I loved her poems

immediately. Even though I kept a tight boundary about submissions

and still do, I let Lifshin slid, knowing I might lose her if I didn't give

her free reign. There is no other way to read her work, be open and

allow yourself to be seduced:

"…Years from now,

when the hotel is plowed


and only pieces of stained


drift up when a child

digs in clay. Or maybe

a ruined couch frame.

Or the glass or even

buttons from the coat

of the man who became

more and more confused,

wandered thru others'

bedrooms, dazed in

the lobby will float

past the cash register

and the eerie voice of

the buck-toothed

screeching guest will

echo up from earth,

cut night like an

ambulance siren."

The reader will never regret buying this 286 page book of poems

with a full orchestra playing in the background, twirling you

through the night. Bravo

"about to leap, bite

the neck of her prey,

put everything she has

into him. She is wild to

paralyze him, keep

him as her slave.

Don't call her Jezebel

or Medea, don't

look at her with a

sneer. She's been

waiting. his body a

taunt, a lure. It's

nature, it's not fair.

And even if she has

to die soon after,

she will have him

on the sheets

of paper"

Irene Koronas

Poetry Editor:

Wilderness Literary Review


Ibbetson Street Press

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