Unlike many of the poets I write about, I've never met Lynn Emanuel. Only in the flesh of her poetry have I experienced her intelligence, her pathos, her wry wit. But those pages--ahh. One is all I need to set my own pen to the blank space; her entire body of work is not enough to satisfy...
Hear the proem to her latest collection, Noose and Hook:
Like Jonas by the fish was I received by it,
swung and swept in its dark waters,
driven to the deeps by it and beyond many rocks.
Without any touching of its teeth, I tumbled into it
with no more struggle than a mote of dust
entering the door of a cathedral, so muckle were its jaws.
How heel over head was I hurled down
the broad road of its throat, stopped inside
its chest wide as a hall, and like Jonas I stood up
asking where the beast was and finding it nowhere,
there in grease and sorrow I built my bower.
Reading "My Life," I am reminded of both Bukowski's "Born Into This" and Spencer Reece's "Tonight." But Emanuel avoids the nihilism of Bukowski and the homiletic nature of Reece and strikes a chord common to everyman: if we can't do our best, we do the best we can: "there in grease and sorrow I built my bower."
Emanuel's wit is not on display as commentary on this existence, but as interactive engagement with it--its particularities--making once again for a familiarity about her work the first time it is read. Many of her poems in Noose and Hook are untitled, giving them a media res feeling. Here is the first poem after the proem:
Martinis, filets and cigarettes, tea sandwiches
with butter and matted snarls of watercress,
coffee white with cream and caffeine black,
the egg's cornea looking up
from a frizzled mat of hash.
The food looks guilty. And why not?
It's cooked by men in wraparound aprons.
There seems to be no motive to it.
On the plate the T-bone bleeds to death.
The ceiling's bare bulb is clear and perfect as a hard-boiled egg.
The block of Stilton's gangrenous and veined.
A cobbler's dark clottedness looks like a hemorrhage in a bowl.
It's a hard and dirty world. Noir,
The poem is right justified, making it seem like the other half of the proem, or something we cannot directly access. Unfortunately, I cannot (or do not know how to) duplicate that typography.
From my reading of Noose and Hook, I highly recommend Lynn Emanuel. I'm going to dig deeper into her work, myself. In the mean time, stay tuned for my next Top Ten Pittsburgh Poet: Joseph Bathanti.
Thursday, May 24, 2012
was born in the Midwest, grew up in New Mexico, and has lived in the San Francisco bay area for two decades. Terry's work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets 2012, Crab Orchard Review, Green Mountains Review, Great River Review, New Millennium Writings, and The Comstock Review. His work has garnered seven Pushcart Prize nominations. He is the winner of the 2014 Crab Orchard Review Special Issue Feature Award in Poetry. His chapbook, Altar Call, was a winner in the the 2013 San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival, and appears in the Anthology, Diesel. His chapbook, If They Have Ears to Hear, won the 2012 Copperdome Poetry Chapbook Contest, and is available from Southeast Missouri State University Press. His full-length poetry collections are In This Room (CW Books, 2016) and Dharma Rain (Saint Julian Press, 2017). Terry is a 2008 poetry MFA graduate of New England College. When he is not writing he is teaching as a regular speaker in the Dominican University Low-Residency MFA Program and as a free-lance writing coach. For more information about Terry and his work see www.terrylucas.com.