Friday, June 26, 2015

book rec: interrobang

Donna Vorreyer, a Tinderbox Poetry Journal poet, has graciously written our first guest post for Friday's book recommendations. If you'd like to send in your own rec, head on over to the submissions page.

Donna Vorreyer is the author of A House of Many Windows (Sundress Publications, 2013) as well as six chapbooks, most recently Encantado, a collaboration with artist Matt Kish (Red Bird Chapbooks). She is a poetry editor for Extract(s), and her second collection is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016.

I have a freakish love for the sonnet. Perhaps it stems from my equally freakish attachment to Shakespeare, but a well-written sonnet just does me in. My favorite gift from my husband is a silver mobius bracelet with Sonnet 116 engraved around its curves. Having said this, modern sonnets often leave me cold as they ignore many of the forms time-honored rules, keeping only the squared-off look of fourteen lines or the idea of a volta. So I was particularly delighted to pick up Jessica Piazzas Interrobang (Red Hen Press, 2013) at Prairie Lights while visiting Iowa City last summer. Named for the punctuation mark that is a combination of question and exclamation marks, the book earns the mystery and surprise that the mark entails. Since then, I have read it several times, most recently last week, as it is the best collection of sonnets I have seen in a very long time.

All the good ingredients are there: rhyme, meter, even CROWNS, people, well-written, clever crowns. But not one stilted obvious sonnet in the bunch. Not one. The organization of the book is unique, and it works - all poems but the three crowns are named for -philias and -phobias. The language is intelligent and fresh without being intellectualized, and I found myself starting to take notes on favorite lines and almost copying out entire poems. As an example, the first crown, entitled People Like Us uses brilliant reworkings of punctuation and enjambment to chronicle a difficult relationship and to make the repeated lines resonate in completely new ways when they reappear. For example:

End line And now our loves not whether, but how long until. leads into first lines It isnt whether. No. Only: how long until/how bad it gets.

End line “…a certain fade to blackOh fuck it. Holler back. leads into first lines Drawn curtain: faded, black. We fucked. We hollered. Back-/tracked and let sunlight in.

From the very first poem Melophobia, which gives us slant rhymes like flawed/wood, possible/steel, and slippery/sky, Piazza reveals herself as a poet with a gift for sound, a gift I could continue to praise, but I would end up retyping the entire book. After you read and love Interrobang, you could also become enamored with her newest chapbook This Is Not A Sky (2014, Black Lawrence Press). These poems also use her gift for sound in a series of ekphrastic poems based on artists from Raphael to Warhol. If you appreciate a poet who uses form and sound to write modern poems whose lines will follow you to bed and when you get up the next morning, these two books are a good place to start.

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