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reading rough honey by melissa stein

February 7, 2011

I started reading Rough Honey by Melissa Stein at the beginning of January, and I spent about four weeks with it. I read it cover to cover. I flipped through it and read poems at random. I read it cover to cover again. I read poems at random again.

I have been carrying it in my bag everywhere I go nearly all of those four weeks, sneaking peeks at it whenever I can. (In retrospect, it could explain how bees entered two of the poems I’ve written since Christmas even though it’s terrible, horrible, no-good winter now here.)

The poems in Rough Honey are pleasure. They are image. They are energy. They are raw. They are delicious. They are invigorating.

And they make me want to go back to every poem I’ve ever written and ask it to do more.

Every stanza, every line, every word is alive. Here are a few examples:

There is anxiety, and wheat blowing
I want to insert a grasshopper, sun in the fabric–
the ladybugs looking up at us with a love so great
we don’t know how the world
doesn’t just burst on its axis–
(from “Built It Ourselves, Out of Love and a Few Nails”)

The sun uses the leaves
like a strainer. What gets through
is language.
(from “White Mushrooms”)

In the aquarium a butter clam
floats by, soothing, the way it takes its time,
going nowhere, and the girl it’s attached to,
soothing too, a manageable storm of boredom
and sex, now headless, now armless, pressing
against the glass, white anonymous lullaby half-
babydoll, tottering on skyscraper heels, oh
I want something so beautiful I forget my life.
(from “Aquarium”)

They always said I was too smart
for my own good and good only for
making trouble. And I thought trouble? What
a beautiful word, half of troubadour
wineskins, ballads, riotous by the canals
with much lifting of skirts and telling
of tales–
(from “Robber girl”)

This isn’t a review of Rough Honey; it may very well be a sales pitch, however. (It has a dead deer poem* in it. Need I say more?) Dear Poets, This is one you must have on your shelves. It will humble and inspire you. You will return to it again and again. This assumes you, at some point, stop carrying it around with you everywhere you go, a phenomenon I cannot yet attest to.

(And I see she will in NYC late this spring, including a stop at louderARTS. Here is her reading schedule.)

*The dead deer poem isn’t quite its own form yet, like the list poem or the prose poem, and it doesn’t quite have a following yet, like the sonnet or the haiku. But as you know, I am a pioneer in the vein of the dead deer poem. We will prevail.

  1. Marie-Elizabeth Mali permalink
    February 8, 2011 11:44 am

    I loved it, too! Glad to see your posting on it. And thanks for the louderARTS mention. We can’t wait to host her!


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