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Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: In the Carnival of Breathing by Lisa Fay Coutley

In the Carnival of Breathing, by Lisa Fay Coutley.
Black Lawrence Press, 2010.
Review by Debrah Lechner. Poetry.

In the Carnival of Breathing explores human interactions with the environment, with each other, and with ourselves. There is a liquid sensibility to this collection: a body of water is never far away. Water calms, encourages reflection. Sitting near a lake or on a dock with a friend often inspires a moment not only of personal revelation, but of intent listening. Perhaps that is why Coutley’s poetry feels so warm―even if the subject is difficult. It is easy to let Coultey’s poetry in. More than many poets, Coutley assumes an intimate relationship with her reader, and that experience is lovely.

Much of the poetry in In the Carnival of Breathing is portraiture, sometimes via nature itself, as in this excerpt from the poem "My Lake:"

When she wants to ride a roller coaster, she does
it alone. When she lets her hair down, men go
blind. My lake doesn’t take any shit. She wears
stilettos in ice storms, does crosswords in pen.
She eats red meat. Her porch needs painting,
her flowers need weeding, but my lake reads
palms in twelve different languages. If my lake
puts her hand to your chest, she decides.

Sometime Coultey takes the reader into her confidence with portraits of the people in her life. This is the poem "Dad and I Talk E-Cigs:"

So then: what will I put in my breast pocket,
what will become of Zippos the world round?
There’s sex appeal in smoking, in the perfect
table smack, the firefly, the flick and spinout.
You want me to suck air from a ballpoint pen.
Hell, even at 60, a man’s gotta have bounds.
I wear the glasses, the dentures, the seatbelt
and drive 25 miles per hour all over town.
If a man wants to have a Pabst and a smoke,
I don’t see a problem. Some CCR on the radio,
a steak on the grill, beans and a baked potato.
I’m just watchin’ those big ole ore ships roll
by from this picnic table (and he angles his chin
toward water receding, toward a red light’s tick).

In the Carnival of Breathing is renewing. It will help you to remember who and what you love, assist in recovering from any weariness that you might find accumulating in the effort to be yourself, and tenderly encourage you to kick ass again. Read it.

Lisa Fay Coutley is the winner of the Fall 2009 Black River Chapbook Competition. She is also the author of Back-Talk, which won the ROOMS Chapbook Contest (Articles Press, 2010). Buy an advance copy of In the Carnival of Breathing or read more about Coutley at her Black Lawrence Press page. In the Carnival of Breathing will be released July 1st, 2011, but you can pre-order it now!

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