A Review of Sarah Rosenthal's Lizard

Recently, one of my favorite poet's we've published sent us a copy of her book of poems out from Chax Press. I wanted to honor it with a review because Sarah Rosenthal is a fantastic poet. She has done something very unusual and rare. As you know, I have a particular way of approaching writing poetry reviews. I prefer to stick to providing excerpts with very little of my own interpretation due to the inherently personal nature of reading a poem. With that said, I will include a few of my favorite excerpts from Rosenthal's Lizard as well as just a very few words on why I find her work inspiring and successful in terms of communicating with that inner being/voice I mentioned before

Reading Lizard reminds me of prayer or what I always thought prayer could be were it not steeped in the baseness of suburban American Christianity. The witness describes to the reader the being and beauty of the witnessed, in this case, Lizard. The witness is us, of course, because we are choosing to step into those eyes as soon as we open the book and begin reading. Therefore, we are also choosing to witness Lizard. We are also choosing to worship Lizard because the witness definitely worships Lizard. I mean worship in the sense that what Lizard does, how Lizard is, is much more important than what the witness does or how the witness is. That is, when you witness Lizard, you lose yourself. In the commencement speech This is Water, given by David Foster to the graduating class of Kenyon College some years ago, he reiterates over and over that we have the power to choose what we worship. We can worship beauty or youth or money or success or Allah or God or this or that, and the problem with that is that when you worship any of those things, you will always lose because none of those things are permanent; they all slip away. In each moment of our lives, we can choose to worship our own egos, what we think is going on, what we like, what we dislike, we can believe that our opinion or definition of what is happening is the only possible truth. He goes on to elaborate by describing how when we are immersed in the "grind" of day to day life, and we are angry because someone cut us off on the freeway, we can choose to worship ourselves and think that person is an asshole OR we can choose to forget ourselves and consider that person's existence as higher and how maybe there's a number of reasons why that person needed to do what they did, that maybe we are not the center of the universe. I bring this up to emphasize how Lizard offers us the opportunity to worship something other than ourselves.

This is a revelatory act worthy of notice.

Not everyone will choose to worship, but those who do will be shown the sumptuousness of Lizard, the complexities of a being not you, the exploratory wildness of pulling-back-the-palm-fronds, peering through the undergrowth and basking in the feeling of forgetting your self. 

[...] Whatever

she attends to she

becomes- a word

on the page till

the book is lost,

a shape in the

clouds till the

hurricane. She

blends into bark

while arsonists

brood, subject

of talk till dessert

is served


the lights go out.

You pitch in the dark.

You dream and wake

and think of Lizard.


When her tongue

whips prey, your

own heart clenches


Lizard's a slapstick

actor. Her timing's

no timing, her

grace is no grace.

She's cutest when

she doesn't know

her name. So how

are, vertiginous,

you've been waiting

for a lizard to topple

you, now it happens,

now go build a frame

for the raw moment


[...] L lives nearby

outside wild. I'm

lazy watching,

knowing little. She

can't not stand my

presence. Her sudden

form defines the zero

point I so adore


She flies, functionally

speaking. Ribs

arcing she sails

unerring to the next



Review of Anne Carson's Short Talks

It's funny because I was in Elliot Bay Book Company last Christmas (a few months ago) looking for gifts when I noticed Short Talks on the Staff Recommends shelf. It seemed familiar but also new. I opened it up, read pg. 35, loved it, and bought it without thinking. 

I started reading it today, and I got to pg. 44 to a piece entitled "Short Talk on Le Bonheur D'etre Bien Aimee". I realized suddenly that I had encountered this piece before, that it was not new at all. It was published in 1992 I discovered, and the last time I'd read it was when I was 26 in the year 2010. I was in a relationship with a person who I truly was in love with as much as I possibly could be in love at the time (this diminishment is because I was also very immature and unsure about what love really requires). Yet the feeling of love was there. When I read that piece at the time, I cried spontaneously because it was so precise. And when I read it today, that moment connected to this moment in a perfect circle, a feeling traveling back and through time in an infinite loop. I'm awestruck by Carson's ability to deliver through images created by words such brilliant emotions. 

Day after day I think of you as soon as I wake
up. Someone has put cries of birds on the
air like jewels. 

The title means the joy of being beloved. 

Here are some other excerpts:

"Short Talk on Where to Travel" (pg. 35)

I went travelling to a wreck of a place. There
were three gates standing ajar and a fence
that broke off. It was not the wreck of any-
thing else in particular. A place came there
and crashed. After that it remained the
wreck of a place. Light fell on it.

"Short Talk on Gertrude Stein About 9:30 p.m." (pg. 31)

How curious. I had no idea! Today has

from "Short Talk on Geisha" (pg. 30)

[...] The important thing was,
someone to yearn for. Whether the quilt
was too long, or the night was too long, or you
were given this place to sleep or that place
to sleep, someone to wait for until she is
coming along and the grass is stirring, a
tomato in her palm.

"Short Talk on the End" (pg. 52)

What is the difference between light and
lighting? There is an etching called The
Three Crosses by Rembrandt. It is a picture of
the earth and the sky and calvary. A moment
rains down on them, the plate grows darker.
Darker. Rembrandt wakens you just in time
to see matter stumble out of its forms.

A "Review" of Eric Elshtain's This Thin Memory A-ha

It's been awhile since I've reviewed a poetry book. I don't personally enjoy reading reviews of poetry books, and I hate writing them. I'm certain they must be useful and serve a function (what that is, is for another post) which is why I post reviews others have written especially if they are written by other poets whose work I respect. When I read a review, I just skip to the excerpts from poems, and if I like them, I'll read the book. Poetry is personal. It's honestly a dialogue with yourself. I would not say a monologue because a monologue is one inner voice speaking out. What I mean by dialogue here, is one inner voice speaking in to itself. Through a poem we are able to paradoxically receive a message from an-other that is also ourselves. The inner speaking to an inner, and the inner responding back. So when I read someone else's work, what I'm listening/feeling for is a response inside. If there is none, that's ok; that poem has nothing to say to me right now. If there is, that's good too. I think reading poetry is that simple. You can talk about the particularities, of course, the wordsmithing, the devices, the format, the form, the function, the rhythm, the rhyme, the feelings evoked, the references, and more (the academic side of poetry, in other words). But outside of that, it's personal and intimate. What I think a poem means, what it's saying to me, is for me. A secret that is keeping itself. Hopefully, this isn't too alienating. I think potentially it is liberating. If even one person can approach poetry in a new way, without someone else telling them what to think about/what to feel about/how to derive meaning from a poem, simply because they came out of the experience without feeling dumb or lost or frustrated when they didn't see what so and so said they should see, or they didn't feel a certain feeling, or the academic accoutrements didn't mean anything to them, I will be happy. So without further ado, here are some excerpts from poems contained in Eric Elshtain's book of poetry entitled This Thin Memory A-HaIt's published by Verge Books

from "Early Maneuvers, Closing Matters"

         [...] This scriptlessness
         will be about subsidence, it will become
         the centerpiece of a belief. Stints at the ready,
         sorties at the eyes away to reason
         What he thought occurred, so we all sing
         about meeting ourselves.
         Wave. You have every reason- you're
         making yourself an unmaking.

from "When you Punctuate the Equilibrium"

          only then the men smile over the coelacanth,
          cover themselves with sea-made
          clays. Suddenly shells will be patchworks of male
          and female; our world will be

          loaded between rock-beds and will avoid the
          flood by being flood; there will be no
          more swimming with stones; no more death
          circles for wind to wear off the rocks

         [...] Gather your optical
          illusions into one last attraction so we'll never
          know whether your down was up,
          or your up was just another sham.

from "Shawl Dance"

          [...] And since, no sky is like
          the kind that caused us
          under the act
          of a single dance
          to be all too created.

from "Choice Shapes Results"

     "magic at one time, and then religions; / monopolize the snake, the worlds begin."

from "On Anything of Skin"

        I soak the twine in squids' ink to design
          a way into the wave the whale's weave
          then tie the flag and coil the line to times
          I count from deck, black crest, black break, believe

          [...] the minimal amount of my content
          that lends her end the sea, a sea, a men.

from "Spell to Uncover the Use of Bodily Organs (in Heaven)"

        [...] Hymn the vessels
          Say it's better
          to be a stick or
stick spelled

          onto a rib, until you are, in time,
          an interim into anatomy's crown.