Review for things we have in writing POEMS (for Z)
“Simple ain’t easy,” Thelonious Monk said, reminding us what melanie farley knows quite well. She is one of the more thoughtful, truly evocative younger poets in America, able to zoom in and zoom out, exploring the concrete in all its abstract glory, threading the everyday details back into a poignant experience of the now. Back in time, thrust into presence, her writing has always explored the “tangibles” even if they were abstractions, even if they were only features already in the page— exposed only by her having marked them just so. You recognize and you remember and you marvel that you’d never noticed and yet you have always known that there’s this ripeness in simplicity. There’s power in things mentioned almost by accident. In this chapbook, “things we have in writing,” she makes the quotidian strange again even as she “blames the windows.” She reminds us of the “messiness” of the air and precision in fragments, the wonder evoked by wandering, looking, half needing to believe, half bored with the view. In these poems, there’s a familiar world but brought into the present and evocative of seemingly universal memories, small moments with pigeons, with pictures, even just the desire to share. There’s a hint of Jack Spicer in her work, his idea that the lemons in poems should be real lemons. This is a dangerous simplicity, able to trouble the comfortable feelings in us all. There’s richness in these poems and they linger after you leave them. It has something to do with the way at times a poem seems to stutter then sing then stumble again in new pockets of clarity. There’s a moon haunting the poems at times, the same moon as in all the other poems about moons, except you feel as though you’ve caught it in the act, sneaking a smoke, craving, a timeless craving associated with other landscapes and other moments in her work, connecting it to “lonely dinosaurs” and other creatures who wander in and out of her work. She explores the relationship between our bodies and their tendency to disappear. She helps us explore the body and its dead zones, its tendency to dissolve into subway rides and lovers hands, anger, acceptance, all of it reappearing in the letters to congresswomen, dead mothers. It’s always a delight to see how she makes even the most simple, direct poem swerve as if we were exploring other people’s houses from the window outside. And these people they are us when we aren’t who we think we are, when we are others. This short series will make you seek more of her work out, and you should.