Friday, January 03, 2014
Michelle Reale’s This is Not a Situation in which You Should Remain Calm
Michelle Reale’s This is Not a Situation in which You Should Remain Calm (Cervena Barva Press, Somerville, MA 02143) $7.00
Review by: Deborah Leipziger
To write a chapbook is an act of courage. Michelle Reale’s chapbook: This is Not a Situation in which You Should Remain Calm is a very courageous book, tackling themes such as immigration and domestic violence. The poet’s voice is distinctive and unforgettable.
Reale’s chapbook is a good antidote to winter, as we travel through the poems throughout Northern Africa and Sicily. We journey along with a couple through vineyards where the “wine tastes like strawberries and almond” through processions in dusty villages.
It is the work of the poet to speak the un-nameable and Reale does just that:
…My tongue will soon be
thick with what can never be said. I will not leave in the same
condition in which I will have arrived and the way you look at me
means we both know this..”
As we meander through villages thick with layers of history, the prose poems themselves seem to groan with the weight of time. The heat of the places we travel through is also dense and thick, following us like a cloud. We traverse with the man and woman through markets where sundried tomatoes, eggplant and artichokes are on display. The poems evoke a sense of place and dislocation, often with food as a theme, a touchstone.
Violence reverberates through the poems, melded somehow with a strange beauty by the poet’s alchemy.
The bruises on the woman’s breasts are described thus:
…purple and green
and yellow flowers bloomed like a night flower.
Wine and blood run through the poems.
Consider the beginning of the poem Tilt:
Shall I open a vein? We can do this all night, you know. Become
transfixed watching ruby formations, drop by agonizing drop. But
maybe you prefer a gush like a fountain…
The sounds of the places echo – there is a hiss, there are screams, there is a sense of malice and cruelty that accompany the couple on their journey thick with wine and blood. A snake is cut in two. The poems are inextricably linked to one another with echoes and reverberations that make a kind of pace, thick with fear and foreboding. The poems are dense with textures and emotions as Reale describes the landscape of desolation and dislocation. We are her witnesses.