Monday, July 30, 2012

For the Comfort of Automated Phrases by Jane Cassady, Book Review

from Sibling Rivalry Press
Jane Cassady's For the Comfort of Automated Phrases was released this month by Sibling Rivalry Press. It is a collection of poems about human failing, about the connections we want but cannot have. It is about trying to make those connections anyways.

This is how the poems unfold: slowly, with a cascade of details to parse, because one of them is a key to unlocking everything else that came before and that follows.

The third section of the title poem is written in the second person, to someone who needs to be dressed:

You have one shoe on.
Attempts at the other make you shriek
and cry and lay down and as I hug you,
you have the strongest elbows.

Suddenly the autistic boy mentioned in the second section of the poem takes on new relevance. The first section's road trip through America, which we're told God created on the third day, is something much bigger and longer than we might have originally signed up for.

Cassady's writing is full of love misplaced or misdirected, because she is willing to give so much love in every direction. There are love poems to cities, to states, to tour guides, to parents who don't get it but keep trying, to jobs that don't deserve our work, and to women dancing in a Zumba class.

Life is messy, she says. Too many stray signals to misunderstand. But keep trying because sometimes, like in the book's final poem, an ode to the impossible could have been To Amy and the Rained-Out Science Carnival, even though we don't get the thing we set out for, sometimes life gives us something just as special.

 If I were a journalist I would be ethically obligated to tell you how much I adore Jane Cassady, and how that might bias my review.

I'd have to tell you that Jane and her lovely wife Amy were there for my wedding. That I've spent countless hours with them at readings and workshops, and at the dance parties that often seem to follow. I'd have to tell you that I consider Jane one of the constants of my life.

But this is my blog, and I make the rules, so what I'll tell you is this: I will never write a word here I don't believe to be true. If I didn't love Jane's book, I'd simply never get around to writing a review.

Book 29 of my book-a-week challenge.

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