'A lemon painted yellow'

Amy Stidham

stack, James Davies (Carcanet Press, 2017)

stack is a seemingly random collection of one-line stanzas that are, of course, not random at all: “a lemon painted yellow,” “impossible exercise with ball,” “attached 2 stickers.” stack paints a reality of objects and actions that is sharp, funny, and sometimes unexpectedly exhilarating. The speaker asks, “i’ve got a cauliflower here what should I do about that.” The footnote for the word “lime” says, in fact, just “lime.” While Davies asks the reader to do the work of connecting line to line, the familiarity of the images make stack accessible in a way that still feels fresh and bright.

Common Place
, Sarah Pinder (Coach House Books, 2017)

Common Place presents a watercolor rendition of the mundane, almost hypnotic in its weariness. The city in which these poems live is sick. There is “a feeling that the city has shorted out” and “soft moss, / [is] coming away in clumps.” The ground is “coughing up ... a small fountain.” However, there is glamor in this disintegration — the “halls [are] ornamented / in plaster birds, butterflies, and moths” — and the city’s mingling of sickness and beauty eventually infects those who live within it. The speaker of one poem “[walks] with a thorn / in [her] perfumed knee.”

, L. J. Sysko (Finishing Line Press, 2017)

Sysko’s Battledore takes motherhood to heights of cinematic action typically exclusive not only to masculinity, but to life outside of the domestic sphere as a whole. When the speaker’s breasts leak in public, she feels “like a wounded / cowboy in a western.” She “spelunk[s] upstairs to the nursery ... like a cave explorer ... hearing      the drip     of close breath.” However, Sysko also makes clear the limitations of this glorification. She wants to remember “Eve when she was just Eve — no apple, / no snake, no man, no kids, no minivan.”