Silent Treatment: Poems

Lisa Lewis, Author Puffin Books $14.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-14-058902-3
Lewis's second book unrolls its large flat verse-paragraphs and monologues in clear, American language; the poems read like speeches or stories, essays or character sketches--some approximate journalistic transcripts, a few present unreliable narrators, others are almost parables. Her sad, straightforward lines evoke, at their best, Randall Jarrell's; more often they suggest such current work as Carl Dennis's or Stephen Dunn's, though Lewis comes closer to realist short fiction, with line breaks for emphasis, pace or convenience: ""I was smoking/ A cigarette to hide it from my husband,/ I have to because I'm rebelling against him,.../ Making myself different"" (""The Rescue""). The people who live in Lewis's plots can be heartwrenching within their stark limits, though their problems (prescription drugs, difficult husbands or friends, neuroses) can also turn predictable. Her best verse-essays display the travails of girls and women, and draw on experience with animals, as in ""Girls Who Love Horses"": ""For girls who grow up loving horses,/ There is no hope. Nothing will break you/ Of lover for power, yet for small things, new-/ Born colts on stilt legs, you have a soft heart..."" The same readers who find this National Poetry Series-winner (selected by Stanley Plumly) samey and flat when read cover to cover, may find it-dipped into, excerpted, in parts-insightful, appropriate, quietly moving. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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