“All I want to do is make poetry famous.”
Almost half way through Life Cycle by Dena Rash Guzman, the eloquent screamer David Lerner’s quote popped up, as I was still busy accepting my fate as a poetry reviewer – which is equivalent to idealist. That is a heavy accusation. I have known in my life young poets with immense talent who gave up poetry even after being told they were geniuses. Never in my writer’s life have I allowed myself to make the sweet promise: “Some day I’m going to write a book for myself.” But then, I am a novelist. Poets are those heartbroken people, obsessive and tenacious in believing that every single letter is of momentous significance, every line is not to be repeated. They depend for their success words and images being placed in proper order and their endings must have the inevitability and surprise of an elegantly executed life cycle. If people want to put a chain of purity around their neck, I salute them.
Every life has a sin – a theme. Every theme is different and yet every life is the same and measured with the same, repeating life cycle. Like fame, life is never out of fashion, death is never in fashion, in between, the collected poems from Life Cycle are the opening words of someone provocative enough to be fighting for the words of a poet. There is a sense of profound solidarity in the words:
Faith is the space
between the flesh of a peach
and the knife.
Faithlessness: a slice
of skin, not peach. (16)
The tone of the small, modest pieces throughout the tiny volume show a flare for dramatic turn, a keen eye for scripting some deeper vein of human psyche and sweet porcelain spirits freshly painted from the mind of the tchotchke shelf. Riddles, heroic and poetic, used as an instrument of seduction – despite the, I am saying it, cliché-riddled innards. Although this volume is like water and in that refreshing, to see art passed along to quench the thirst, this effort lacks the tonal dynamics to transform itself into eloquent milk to feed the hungry baby.
Life Cycle is the poet’s offering, presented as “evolutionary duty” (p.25). Each offering is an assault on the precarious senses of the reader. The frenetic pace at which the streams of stanzas pour reminds us of a riverboat wheel hoarding up hands filled with goblets of liquid language lost to decipher, as one expects collision of emotion and evocation. The reader is left out of this intimate room, as the language is left featureless, and the imagery to guide the reader through life’s puzzling mementos vague and lacking clarity and precision. The poet loses the best chance to construct a sustaining tension, as the pace of the pages are searing. This lack of breath or pause does not allow the reader time to examine or chew only to swallow lines after lines of inexhaustible sharp, sweet-and-sour tastes and aftertastes.
All right, forget the bad wine, “tea leaves us fortified” (52).
[…]Remember the smell of the lilac bush outside the window of the too-small house, the thrift store painting in the hall. We liked it with voracious eyes, we ate cold sweet porridge out of coffee cups for breakfast. Hot and not touching beneath our worn sheets we fell asleep to the sunrise.” (29)
Poets teach the heart to hold beauty and (im)possibilities. All things want to float, life does. I am waiting for these life verses’ proper season to make me drool. Perhaps with proper editing and development of a few poetic devices, this work by Dena Rash Guzman will rise above her name as something written before its time to be plucked. Of course, it is so easy for me to say all this now. Fame is everywhere, so is beauty. Let us make it so for poetry.
Life Cycle: Poems. Dena Rash Guzman. Zionville, NC: Dog On A Chain Press, 2013.
Julie O’Yang is an Europe-based fiction writer, essayist, and screenwriter. Her fiction, essays and film reviews have featured in international renowned publications. Her most recent work is entitled, Butterfly, a novel. (www.julieoyang.com)
William Lyles is an award winning independent writer from Charlotte, NC where he attends university at UNC of Charlotte as an English major. He is the author of Scenes from a ’69 Dead Sled, Electric Ladyland and The Mephisto Adieu.