Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sleeping with Houdini by Nin Andrews

I can't remember when I first discovered the work of Nin Andrews. I had read her poems in journals and then a friend suggested Nin's The Book of Orgasms to me. It was fantastic and ended up being one of the books I featured in my final critical paper where I explored women poets such as Nin Andrews, Denise Duhamel, Lucille Clifton, and Dorothy Barresi who use humor to deal with more serious subjects.
So, when I hear Nin had a new book out-- SLEEPING WITH HOUDINI (BOA Editions, 2007)-- I had to get my hands on it. Physically, the book is gorgeous. For book lovers, it's a reminder why ebooks just haven't caught on. The weight of the book, the colors in cover, the smell of the paper, just holding this book feels good.

But of course, poetry lovers need to also be taken by what's inside. And I was. The book is a series of prose poems, each one offering surprise and wit, intrigue and story. And while each poem balances off the other poems, they are uniquely different. Like "Aspirin," which begins, The day I ate two bottles of St. Joseph's baby aspirin, my mother was out of town. . .
And I think it's these moments in the book that capture me, these small daily incidents that Nin weaves into so much more. The characters in this book become not-so-much heroes in their own stories, but the people you want to listen to who aren't afraid to share the details, who are discovering things themselves as in "When a Woman Loves a Man--" I was eating scones and sipping espresso at the Cafe Arabica when I learned of my love affair with you...
And maybe that's the magic of the collection, I never knew what I was going to discover on each page. And while the rest of my world buzzed around me, I was in a poem ("Winging It") with Robert Bly and a girl was trying to kiss her elbow to turn herself into a boy. And it's too good to explain here, so you'll have to read it yourself to see how a poet instructed to a group to write a poem about a thing they worshipped (like an onion or stone) then add a sin to it or confess something.
But I need to leave you with something, so here's a favorite poem of mine called:


In those days the girl could make the sun rise. Each day it began as a tiny glow the size of an apple seed in the center of her forehead before expanding, stretching out like melted taffy across the hardwood floor, then crawling up the windowsill and out into the streets. She could feel its white heat beneath her skin as an electric current, leaving her thoughts and dreams as each fragile beam entered the world. She knew it was only a matter of time before others saw her brilliance. After long days of emitting light, she was reduced to cinders, slowly climbing the air. Her mother would appear in the doorway and not seeing her, call out, Are you in there Sweetheart? The girl never answered. Instead, she felt all the empty rooms inside her and someone hiding in every one.

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