Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lyn Lifshin’s new collection, 92 Rapple Drive (Coatlism Press, 2008)

Review of 92 Rapple Drive

Lyn Lifshin likes to make the world disappear. For those who hold tightly to their solid, carefully appointed universes, her poems might be a source of irritation as she challenges the very foundations upon which we stand. She, like the best magician, will show you the card, but you cannot notice the sleight of hand as it fades away. We do not know where 92 Rapple Drive is, but within its mysterious walls, whole lives come and go with a whisper and a wisp of wind. Those of us who have read much Lifshin recognize the characters: the woman pretending to be a wife, the mysterious email lover, the spurned lover, the dying mother, the cats. Yet these characters seem almost incidental to the disappearing act. The stage is set in the first poem, “before anyone in my/life was in my life/not the cat,/the man’s fingers,/blackberries tangled/under blood maple/tangle weed grazed/ankles and trees….” The poem has occurred before the poem was written. We go into an alternate time/space. It ends, “shapes, moving in/shadows could be/whatever you imagined.”

The poems can be violent; a wine bottle is thrown, blood is spilt, a pregnant woman is murdered, yet still the blows are softened by this shape-shifting out of “reality”, by making things ”not enough” or not remembered or put before or after time. A series of blues poems, starting with “The Bad Bad Bad Bad Blues” are more hard hitting, rhythmic, full of blue images, “not just the/inky sapphire,not/the cobalt the blue/eyes crying in /its rain but the/black cat blues,/the cat jolting out/of bed the kill,/blue of sarcoma….” But each one of these poems has a way of avoiding the “inevitable ending”, slipping off into “only half/way there” blues, blues that have not fully arrived, blues we have to look for because there were “more blue than/there were words.”

Lyn Lifshin’s prolificalness is legendary. Here is a bright spirit burning with poetry. Like

Anna Pavlova, who brought the swan alive, Lyn is a streak of adrenaline dancing that does not burn out. Her magic is that she can appear and disappear without a trace. Her poems will fill us with color and then let us drift away in the mist. But the creative muscles of this writer are that of steel and this is the true irony. A poem titled, “December 29, 2005” could be an autobiography:

with the windows open,

the white orchard

A woman darts toward

the melting, leaps

past soap and towels,

Not afternoons,

long slowly drowsy

paragraphs but an

exclamation point,

a wild sentence

and the fire and plum

coming into the sky

These are the real colors and this is the life of the poem, which is also the life of the spirit. We are fortunate to have this sublime poet leaping to us with her wild poems.


Alice Pero is a poet and musician living in Los Angeles. Her book, Thawed Stars was hailed by Kenneth Koch as having “clarity and surprises.” She runs the reading series, “Moonday” in Pacific Palisades. Visit Alice Pero at www.alicepero.com or www.moondaypoetry.com

Joe La Rosa reviews 92 Rapple Drive by Lyn Lifshin

William Carlos Williams counseled poets to "let the metaphysical take care of itself." That is easier said than done. Lyn Lifshin's strength and endurance as a poet is largely due to her ability to accomplish this feat.

The poems in 92 Rapple Drive possess a spirit that is ever-present, never detached from the matter at hand. This evocative spirit moves from poem to poem, weaving an elegantly simple web which is no less than the fabric of the poet's life itself. What appears mundane on the surface is deftly transformed by the poet's uncompromising adherence to the 'deep song' in us all.

There is more than mere muse at work in these poems. By that I mean that the voice of the poet is anything but distant, or, thank God, weary. No, Lifshin attacks her charge and sees the task through to its end with feline suddenness and a jazzy insouciance that is most attractive and alluring.

The idiom in these poems resonates with a disembodied lyricism that is both provocative and tender, and represents a subtle departure from the familiar, though never conventional, narrative style readers may have come to expect from opening a new book of poems by Lyn Lifshin. There is an irresistible charm and vitality to the dissonance in the voice of these poems that is reminiscent of Bebop at its best.

She knows instinctively that poetry is not exclusive in any sense of the word. It is a means of connecting with the larger world all around us that we tend to block out of our daily lives, yet her main source of inspiration springs from the details of that obstruction. Poems of love, light and passions unbound for a hot minute or hour, in an untidy world that includes a fair share of madness and irony, are anathema to academia. Lifshin has broken through the barrier between academia and the rest of us, communicating across divisive lines and outflanking the intelligentsia in the process.

Lifshin's words leave visceral traces in the reader's consciousness. At times she reaches the ultimate state Lorca called duende -- a passion that does not seek instant gratification but a relationship with nature that is direct and poignant always.

Her knack is subtle and seductive and never expedient. She says in her poems only what she wants and means to say, and that is no small accomplishment, as anyone who has struggled with the art of poetry can tell you. She's a natural, America's best kept secret, an agile and provocactive presence that can easily go largely unnoticed amidst the chaos of daily life if we do not stop to pay heed, to smell the flowers, so to speak. Not that Lifshin is of the airy-fairy school of verse, not by any stretch of the imagination. She's very down and dirty and, at her most profound, takes no prisoners.

Crises are absorbed into the poems and therein resolved in such a way as to keep the ball rolling. Pain is not an obstacle, nor is sorrow. They are instead like sparkling waters poured out of a self that is whole at the moment of writing, an exquisite vessel that defines in tangible terms the insubstantial source of emotion.

I've had a crush on Lyn Lifshin's poetry for many years. I can think of no other poet in recent times whose work has been more consistently good as Lifshin's, nor, certainly, any whose output has been more prolific. 92 Rapple Drive is a masterpiece in a minor key, another stunning testament from the inexhaustible pen of one of America's premier poets that, to cite another of Dr. Williams' profound observations, memory is, indeed, a kind of accomplishment.

Joe La Rosa

Monday, May 5, 2008

Norman J. Olson reviews 92 Rapple Drive

A Review of 92 Rapple Dr. by Lyn Lifshin by Norman J. Olson

Ernest Hemingway famously stated that “I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows.” Lyn Lifshin is a minimalist, slice of life poet in that same long and strong American tradition of spare realism. In Lyn’s poetry, the images do not convey meaning. Rather, the images are the meaning. When she states that “geese / were black ovals / against lightened gray” we do not have to search for a meaning or a symbolic resonance but rather close our eyes and picture the black ovals and the lightened gray. As our earthly encounters with sensual experience have meaning for us, Lyn’s poetic and beautiful images have meaning and speak to that basic human core where we can not help but read the world in sensual symbolic images.

So, the symbolism in this poetry is deep and human rather than facile and literary. Fine, but that is only the start of the wonder of these poems. In this new book, we have a poet with the amazing ability to bring bright, wafer thin slices of life into deep symbolic conversation, but she also talks explicitly about her own life. In these highly personal poems, we see a woman who remembers her lover’s fingers and now has grown beyond embarrassment into the fullness of experience of the good and comfortable as well as the violent and awful that fill all of our lives. What I mean here is that I responded strongly to the narrative element in these poems, the disjointed memoir of a woman who has seen the wine bottle break on the wall and wonders if the stain will bleed through, a woman who wants peace and a warm blanket by the fire, the fingers of an imaginary lover, a cat purring softly in the corner; but has felt the thistle in the garden and knows that the cat is already diabetic, sick and facing that same challenge we all face as time speeds up and we are whirled around the sun year after year in our living rooms and yards.

This is a fine book by a mature and gifted poet. I am not unbiased, as I am a long time admirer of Lyn’s poetry but, for the reader that wants to walk into the life of the poet and see the spinning seasons through new eyes, I suggest 92 Rapple Drive, a fine collection by a poet who is an American master.


Norman J. Olson is a 58-year-old poet, artist, and civil service worker. He published his first poem in 1984, after many years of submission and rejection. Now he's been published in over 15 countries. Hundreds of his poems and drawings appear online, in print, and showcased. Check is website for more information.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Hugh Fox reviews 92 Rapple Drive

In this latest book, Lyn Lifshin, Ms. Total Story has become tantalizingly fragmentary, never quite telling it all but just giving the reader enough to get the outlines of the vision she’s working with: “I was sure it was him/flying up from the thicket//drunk on a new poem./Someone heard him//scrounging for lasagna.This is the part of/the poem that’s true, the/night wind, his//howling, his lostness./Let him call it/love. Think of wolves/and moons. Think of me//morning after mourning/arranging the myths//I trapped myself in.” (“On Rapple,” p.41).

A significant step in a new direction on Lifshin’s part. Instead of somewhat straight narrative now we are being treated to a new, experimental, avant-garde style that is similar to other high-art Lyns like Lynne Savitt and Lynn Strongin.

The irony is that the sketchy nature of the reality that Lifshin presents is
as (or even more) moving than full-narrative. You move inside the tortured soul of the poet directly into her edge-of-explictness feelings and find the same sorts of fractured worlds inside yourself. If Freud had been a Rimbaud-influenced poet.....

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Brilliant book of poems by Lyn Lifshin

92 Rapple Drive

Poems by Lyn Lifshin
Price: $15.95
Perfect Bound
78 Pages of Poetry
Coatlism Press
ISBN: 978-0-9802073-1-6

"Her poems in rolling stone stayed on my wall longer than anyone's." --Ken Kesey

This new collection of poetry is a sexy, personal account of what happens on Rapple Drive. Lyn Lifshin takes you inside--behind closed doors--for an intimate look where most people never see. The poems are powerful, sensual and evocative.

Please click on the book image above to be taken to the Coatlism Bookstore where you can buy Lyn Lifshin's book using credit card or paypal.

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