Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review of IN THE CARNIVAL OF BREATHING, a poetry chapbook by Lisa Fay Coutley

Review of IN THE CARNIVAL OF BREATHING, a poetry chapbook by Lisa Fay Coutley, Black Lawrence Press, Aspinwall, Pennsylvania,,, 31 pages, $9, 2011

Review by Barbara Bialick

Every now and then I read a baffling book that has the unique complexity of a droll and yet lyrical voice. This volume, winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition, is composed of 24 poems whose lines transform into disparate oppositions of themselves, from the beginning of each poem to the end. You may think you got it right away, but don’t be disappointed that you didn’t. This is a book that would appeal to people who like demanding poems you have to figure out, yet which has poems with such interesting images, you can also just like it as it is.

For example, the poem, “Transplant”: “These aren’t his slippers, and this isn’t his/robe or his morning, its dark shade hung/against wet brick, against a TV’s low-sung/story of an uptown subway burning/…Let my wrecked lung be swaddled in hay./In this chest: tangerines, a fistful of lilacs./Today is purple, today is orange. Today/a subway caught fire and I wasn’t on it.”

I also like the imagery in “Errata”: It begins “As the story goes, the raven’s wings/aren’t black. They’re waves, capping /dark omens. Crows with curtained throats/…and continues, “I’m sorry you won’t see your son, his skin/peeling its white scarf through blizzards…” and ends up as: “Listen: my heart’s a gutter of ravens tugging at the firmament.” Interesting book. You may want to read it…

And one last example: The poem “My Lake”, which was included in BEST NEW POETS 2010, and begins: “My lake has many rooms and one, which is red/with a door that’s always open but chained./My lake owns boxing gloves. She owns lingerie./…She has been classically trained in lovemaking./…She freezes just before she murders her own shore…”

Lisa Fay Coutley had another award-winning chapbook from Articles Press in 2010,
BACK-TALK, in the ROOMS Chapbook Contest. She holds an MFA from Northern Michigan University, where she was poetry editor of “Passages North”. She lives with her sons in Salt Lake City, where she is a doctoral fellow and poetry editor for “Quarterly West” at the University of Utah.

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