Devil's Paintbrush

Desiree Alvarez. Bauhan (UPNE, dist.), $16.50 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-87233-218-8
Mythical and magical, this debut collection from painter and poet Alvarez portrays human behavior as an interconnected aspect of nature's kingdom. Alvarez slowly, steadily peels back onion-skin layers of history in order to uncover elements of the sublime. Often structuring her poems as series of declarative statements, she utilizes sharp language that never distracts from the central mood or atmosphere. She recounts history, whether personal or cultural, not with judgement or criticism, but with tenderness. In the poem "Djinn," Alvarez becomes a displaced warrior, juggling feelings of desire with the dissatisfaction of unfulfilled purpose. She confesses, "I remove my hands from the wire hive of sleep./ I am afraid of myself." Later, in the poem "Indian Elephant," she cleverly uses the animal subject as an extension of the speaker. The elephant is depicted as an unfortunate captive, victim to her environment, isolated and alone. Like the speaker, the elephant is constantly on display and at the mercy of a man. In addition to historical inspiration, Alvarez looks artists such as Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and paintings such as Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World." smartly using other artists, art, and history as inspiration without being hackneyed, repetitive, or predictable, Alvarez moves through various perspectives with the ease of water. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 08/01/2016
Release date: 04/01/2016
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