Title: Podunk Moon
Author: Erin Geil
This short anthology features what feels like a complete, poetic short story, “The Great American,” at the end of a collection of poems primarily on love, relationships, life, and death.
Together, they form a unified whole that depicts a world of sorrow, of tough choices and pain, of sparkling moments of joy chased by shadows and difficulties. Men are often predatory and thoughtless, and women are often hurt and worn down, staying in relationships despite the difficulties. It’s a grim world, bittersweet and downright somber at times, but artistically cohesive.
And there are lighter pieces. At times, the poetry can be playful and experimental, like the author’s work on the alphabet. A poem on the name of a cheese can be found alongside laments for a happier, more innocent past or a future without the “other” in it, though said person is never greatly defined (though the other seems to usually be a “he” and often has blue eyes).
The free-verse poetry starts with the author’s most recent work and goes back in time to earlier pieces, and the tone varies greater as one reads. The more recent works seem to share the same overall rhythm and focus while the older ones, though still focused on topics like death and the grave, could approach them at times in a sweet and poignant way.
Some of the poems have a spiritual feel to them, examining the longing for freedom, for eternal companionship, or the loneliness of breaking up. Others are almost like riddles, with backwards words and vague terminology that leaves the reader with a mood but not necessarily an idea of what is being discussed.
The poems are bold in their choice of themes and language, at times, and the author isn’t afraid to tackle topics like drugs, rape, and death. Death and sex, without a great deal of sensuality or delight in it, are probably the most frequent topics. In one piece, the poem is from the perspective of the dying; another examines an after-funeral gathering of family and food while a third takes the viewpoint of a coffin. Similarly, sex is examined in both a longed-for and an unwanted way, with some poems focusing on before, some after, and some during the sexual act.
Some of the poems are quite brilliant while others are choppy and hard to follow, having an almost identical structure, page after page, of two-or three-word lines, and some readers may find the poems bleak as, page after page, one experiences the difficult lives and pain and longing of others.
The artistic vision of capturing pain and awkward yearning is effective, and together the poems and story excerpt creates an emotionally evocative picture of the struggles some experience as part of being alive. Reminiscent and nostalgic in moments, bitter and yearning without much hope in others, this collection of poems and prose will appeal to readers who want to experience the emotional and relational struggles of growing up and exploring the world for the first time.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
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