Sunday, December 5, 2010



Grief Suite by Bobbi Lurie
(CW Books, 2010)

“And I found the dark spelling of my life.” Is the last line of “Soft Fibers Adorn The Diminishing Landscape”, the final poem in Bobbi Lurie’s Grief Suite. This dark spelling is how everyone’s name is recorded, whether or not we live long enough to read it:
You watch the others retreat
At the entrance to the cancer factory not presented to them yet.

But to us it is.
“To me alone,” we say in unison.
(from “Once My Heart Was Wide And Loved The World”)

This dark spelling is also presented by poetry, another eventuality some never attain. A review of a poetry collection offers a few letters – initials, acronyms, excerpts such as:
I fragment short prayers, picking at the worded wounds. I lie down quietly beside her and try to be a prayer.
(from “Your ‘I’ So Much Like Mine”)

You give the news out in tiny spoonfuls.
People chew on it until it becomes familiar.

You are dimmer to them now.
You glimmer in the distance with your fate.
(from “Once My Heart Was Wide And Loved The World”)

The cornfields are memories. You cannot remember anything. The road is filled with dust. Your life is. Your death. I cannot find it in this landscape. This collection of tendencies.
(from “Traveling North”)

Note the prose enjambment of “Your life is. Your death.”, one of the many technical finesses in “Traveling North” and this collection. Here is the entirety of “Traveling North”:
Though you are dead now. Though I walk covered in dust through this strip mall in Iowa. I remember the collection of tendencies that led me here. The flat landscape. The blazing heat of cornfields. The landscape and body are one sensation.

Everywhere the books of atmospheric pressure. This book smells like miracles. That you were the chapter. That I was the slaughter. That sheep, my inheritance. That you were the shepherd who led me here. Your hand reaching out to strike. Your hand reaching up to brush the hair from your brow. I never knew which. I never knew when. Your hand.

The cornfields are memories. You cannot remember anything. The road is filled with dust. Your life is. Your death. I cannot find it in this landscape. This collection of tendencies.

Though you are dead now. Though your hand would reach to strike. Though your hand would reach up to brush. The hair from your brow. Though light penetrates this. It is flat. It is frozen in self-image. I must resist the symbiotic wish. I must void the infantile condition. That region. This region. The atmospheric pressure in the vicinity of living.

Though you seemed invincible when your body moved. Though the way your hand. Would reach to your brow. Even though dead. Even though each wave of light penetrates. Even though only seems to slaughter. Sheep of inheritance.

Wake up at 4 a.m. Walk out naked to the porch. Skin shimmering. The way the word porch clings. The creaky swing. Dark lake of the body. What is always erased. The way your hand would reach to your brow and wipe your hair away. And it was always your hair. Always yours. And your face jutted into the landscape. This nowhere. This clicking sound of insects. Late summer.


The poems in Grief Suite range from prose poem to free verse to experiment (in “Purity Becomes a Kind") to lyric:
Myth of Narcissus

The world leans into me
as I bend to fasten my sandals.
My hair is loose
and the wind arrives.

There is a black flame inside me
when I see his face. There is a floating garden
and a well with a crank.
If only I could bring the water to my lips.

He sees me
and I lower my head.
So this is Maturity!
Death comes toward us in equal steps.


Here is one more poem in its entirety:
An Increase in Silence

Harm is the scholar of thorns and thought its repetition and what is that smell, dear Lord, seeping out through the crevices of being this body, this bed such a plank for this festering vessel.

And they say in their multitudes to remind us of good deeds/ kind thoughts, what brought me here and brings me still is the cruel edge for all collect their coupons, they take the good parts out and keep it for themselves and dress in fine fabrics and gawk. Only those who love can sit and watch.

I have analyzed paintings in my day, I have sought to dance animated to illustrations but now the drop cloth is being taken by the workers and their skin beside the picture window shimmers.

I have finished first, beyond the grave from where I’ll speak, though planted like a crop and famous for it still.

Life venerates the bedding of the dead.


After these poems, after these excerpts, what more to persuade you of Grief Suite’s importance (power, beauty, value)? Is persuasion not the critic’s task? What more to persuade you to read Grief Suite in its entirety?


Jeff Harrison reviewed books for the past seven issues of Galatea Resurrects (list at He has publications from Writers Forum, MAG Press, Persistencia Press, and Furniture Press. He has two e-books at xPress(ed), and one at Blazevox. His poetry has appeared in The Hay(na)ku Anthology Vol. II (Meritage Press), An Introduction to the Prose Poem (Firewheel Editions), Otoliths, Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics, Xerography, Moria, NOON: journal of the short poem, Dusie, MiPOesias, EXPLORINGfictions, and elsewhere. Some of his poems can be read here and here. You are welcome to visit Antic View.

1 comment:

EILEEN said...

Another view is offered by Joey Madia in GR #14 at