Who was that stranger beside me?Please forgive me for insistingIt must have been a dream.No one could survive such happiness. --from "[Untitled]"The Lyrics records the days of one seeking knowledge through movement and contingent images--a monastery, a motel, an Irish coastal river--all the while conscious of political and class warfare, of beingWho was that stranger beside me?Please forgive me for insistingIt must have been a dream.No one could survive such happiness. --from "[Untitled]"The Lyrics records the days of one seeking knowledge through movement and contingent images--a monastery, a motel, an Irish coastal river--all the while conscious of political and class warfare, of being American, of the need to know the difference (if there is one) between good and evil. Each poem is a lament formed in a place of rest, asking: Can we get beyond this and still be? The Lyrics is the newest work of an intense and vital poet. ...
|Number of Pages||:||80 Pages|
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The Lyrics Reviews
Frustrating. I wanted to like this book a lot more. I love Howe's essays and appreciated the extended form, but found the language a little flat (which is not my jam) and the declarations ("you'd need a science/to name this new species/that survives without language." or "There’s a long pause when a woman and a man/Struggle with equal strength.") and rhetorical questions (“How can this be happening?” “Will a new mistake produce better results?”) to be annoying and/or trite and/or reductionist and/or simply untrue.
Too hard. My little brain couldn't hold these long sequences, much less the whole book, together. I looked to the back cover for some help and found a little: "each poem is a lament formed in a place of rest." But is there rest? This speaker and these poems seem to walk around to so many disparate places, through different religions and ethics, with always an eye for social and political critique (often Marxist). I tried to take a cue from the title and read these strange poems as trying to get at a kind of lyric truth (a truth achieved through sound), but that reading didn't quite play out for me--there was a lot of intentional "scrape" to the "bell," and an insistence of not just lyric but "black lyric," and why the "The" before the "Lyrics" to suggest a specific book of lyrics being referenced (where are the notes?! how about a little help?). I saw a through line of a troubled speaker (a friend pointed out that on the first page Howe's "troubles the sea" echoes Hamlet's "a sea of troubles") and enjoyed the sudden intrusion of AA advice near the end. But, still, the book felt too large and unruly. I find her later collection "Come and See" much more coherent and powerful.
I admire the breadth of idea in the book, and the continuity of intent, at least in the sense that I see scenarios juxtaposed to one another, or complemented as the book goes on. For instance, the situation and tone of "School" getting commented on in "City Limits" with the teacher whose insanity is its own teacher begins to pull the map for this book out. I guess I would have rather seen a bit more of those junctures. I really enjoy the moments when the speaker gets just a little more discursive, like the poems in "Sheet Music" and "Scrape and Bell," because I think they give a little more space for commenting on the more condensed lyrics that make up most of the book.
There were some lovely parts to it but overall scribbling notes in the margins, trying to figure out half of the meanings was too much work.
This gets a mere three stars ONLY by comparison to Fanny Howe's other books of the last decade. Compared to most poetry, it deserves at least eight out of five.
I loved this little book. Beautiful symphonic movements in the body of work.