The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

REVIEW: STEVIE EDWARDS – HUMANLY (SMALL DOGGIES PRESS)

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If I string the night between two fence posts,
one side heaven and one side hell,
if I stand in the middle of the field
with a bottle of wine, human
and raging, my friends will still hang
from the line like the earth’s dirty laundry,
my feet just sinking in the mud
that is not a grave, not tonight.

-“Humanly”

I have brought you here to discuss the rules of dying:
I’ve been stacking cards for a decade.

– “Luck, Luck, Noose”

For years I’ve told my students to avoid writing about situations with which they’ve yet to fully digest. I do want to read their fumbles through yesterday’s tragedies, but rather their honest emotions once whatever happened has had some time to settle. There’s a power in time away – even if that “away” means that it still occupies a majority of daily thoughts. Too many times, writers do not head this advice, and their words end up flat, emotional, but not providing enough to place the audience inside the moment. Stevie Edwards, in her newest collection, Humanly, exemplifies what it means to pause for a moment, breathe, and then address everything that’s been pushing and clawing at the back of her eyes.

 

How many tragedies does it take
to turn off all the light bulbs
and slip into a shadow more suitable
for unliving in?

The answer: if you have to ask,
there is still more to lose.

– “Accident”

With Humanly, we step into the pages of a diary. It’s personal, it’s cutting, but most of all, it’s filled with conversations we’ve all had with ourselves – just a lot more eloquent than what typically pours out into a little book with lock and key. To be able to write about death in such a way, brings life to the self-analysis we all dread, but runs like a hamster on the wheel of repetition.

 

What’s that you say? All of this joy can be had
             for the simple price of
            getting the fuck over myself.
How about I try a little fondness on for a change.

– “Stepping Inside of November”

With an eye toward the exploration of love, death, time, acceptance, and the future, Edwards maps out the reality of death, and the emotional pull that never quite lets go. Luckily, Edwards does help us creep out into the light on occasion. At least to ask a humorous question:

Cat’s get nine lives. How many
for drunk bitches who never eat dinner?

– “The Devil I know”

Eventually, the hope is that we all move on from those moments that hold breath as their hostage. Humanly, from Small Doggies Press, allows for a bit of a guide out of the shadows.

 

This is what I have to give you. Leftovers
that aren’t vegan, not even food really—
burnt leather scraps for a heart, but my God,
I’ve been saving them for you.
I’ll leave what I have at your feet
like a proud cat littering mice across the stoop.
So this is love. So this is entropy. I’ll break
every bone in my feet running toward
the shiny gate of it.
The whole damn sky holds its breath.
Let me be holy and warm.
Let me be the exhale. The best wine.
The wish on every eyelash.

-“The Offering”

More reviews and words can also be found at Drunk in a Midnight Choir

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

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