Thursday, December 17, 2015

Give Him Away: A Review of Best Man by Owen Lewis

Give Him Away: A Review of Best Man by Owen Lewis

 Review by Emily Pineau

Owen Lewis’s haunting and eye-opening collection of poems, “Best Man,” reveals a story between brothers and family, and the pain that comes with loving someone with an addiction or a mental illness. Lewis’s honesty and rawness in his first poem “So,” starts with the line, “I am still mad at you,” (p.5). This immediately draws the reader in, and makes us feel the urgency and pain that Lewis’s brother Jason made him feel. Instead of being nostalgic, Lewis’s feelings are in the present, and have not been buried with Jason—Lewis feels Jason in the present tense.  Lewis’s poems make me think of addiction as a living thing that leaves a mark on those who have seen it, like seeing spots after looking into a camera’s flash.

Lewis’s poems, “En Route” and “Lingering Here,” take place in the Beth Isreal Cemetery and both illustrate integral parts of Lewis’s grieving process. Jason’s grave allows Lewis to face Jason, in a sense. In his poem, “En Route,” Lewis writes:

It doesn’t seem to matter, visiting
or not. Who the hell’s here?
So many people left pebbles near
to say hello. Not one for you. (p.7).

This poem reveals Lewis’s mixed feelings for Jason. Rather than “visiting” the grave, Lewis is trying to figure out how he feels about Jason when he is at the cemetery; he is reliving Jason’s death and the pain that was inflicted on his family. This poem contains Lewis’s anger and grief much like the cemetery does. In “Lingering Here,” Lewis is coming to understand Jason’s pain, rather than reliving his own. Lewis says:

    His soul was already flying off,
    off to his Italian birth mother, the one
he breach-busted out of, who gave him away. (p.11).

It seems like Jason’s soul was slowly leaving his body as his life became derailed. The poem references Jason’s birth mother rejecting him—this was another struggle that sent him over the edge. Lewis mentions that pebbles on a grave are visitors’ way of saying “hello,” in his poem, “En Route.” In the last poem of Lewis’s collection, Lewis places a pebble on Jason’s grave. By placing the pebble on his grave, Lewis is saying, “Hello,” “Goodbye,” and “I forgive you.”

    Lewis has come full circle with how he processes his grief, and how he feels about Jason. By producing this collection of poetry Lewis can fully heal and provide others with the same peace. His powerful words and imagery make us understand how one can both love and hate someone who is plagued with an addiction. Lewis is giving us permission to be confused about our feelings towards people who disappoint us, but who are also a huge part of our lives and who we are. This permission is invaluable, and his poems will always stick with me as I experience my own struggles.

No comments:

Post a Comment