Storytelling and Poetry Blend Together in a Splendid Collection
This review was originally published April 9th, 2018 on Vocal.Media. It may have been subject to editing changes.
Open Susana H. Case’s Drugstore Blue and embark on a time traveling journey filled with decisive and imaginative verse. This is a brilliant collection which repudiates the notion that poetry is a lethargic art reserved only for elderly patrons and love sick adolescents. The kinetic energy released by the enclosed pieces effectively transports the readers to the settings of each one. Even the recalled memories of her parents’ elopement is filled with vibrant detail. Within the fifteen lines of “I Think of My Mother and Father, the Early Years,” she crafts a story brimming with such romantic tension and nervous excitement that the emotional residue could easily cling to a reader for months after he or she turns the page.
Case’s book is divided into four movements. Movements I and II are dedicated to red blooded poetry which fears nothing and seems to find death and old age insipid. The salacious delicacy of being alive absolutely pulses in the third stanza of “Empowerment” as the speaker remarks, “Still, I wanted any man I liked / to want nothing more in life / than to slide off my shoes.”
This vivacity courses through the first half of Case’s collection. In “Hold Me Like You’ll Never Let Me Go,” she perfectly captures the selfishness of youth, its desire to taste, feel and take everything possible that the world has to offer. The world is a youth’s oyster, whether that oyster belongs to someone else doesn’t matter. Then the speaker asks, “You ever do that/ take what you want just to see how it feels?” Case effectively steals the readers’ breaths away, just as she intended to.
The first two movements of this book start at a bolt and never stop running. Yet, by the third and fourth movements the transmutation of youth and bold rage to dried up, dusty anger is wonderfully displayed in pieces likes “Sacrifice.” In it, the speaker watches a young woman at a bar, knowing she has been prepared for the older man accompanying her and wishes to cry out to stop the whatever transgression which may occur, but her voice is silent.
Appropriately, the fourth movement is entitled “The Ghosts That Give Directions.” While fires were set ablaze in the aforementioned movements of Case’s poetry, the final set can best be described as smouldering coals. These poems are still exquisite but the passion and rage of the previous set has seemingly been burnt out of them.
The readers may find themselves asking if, in Case’s final pieces, they are watching a whirling dervish simmer down into a slow waltz. As the readers and speaker glide in tight, elegant circles, are they gazing all around at the past and deep into regrets? Those regrets which previously the speaker in her youth would have scoffed at. Those regrets which the speaker would have beaten to the color of drugstore blue.
Published in 2017 by Five Oaks Press, Drugstore Blue is still a collection to add to a “Must Read List” for 2019. If the enormous eye on the cover is not an adequate attention grabber than the text certainly is. Case is a poet who possesses the miraculous gift of story telling. Despite the dramatic drop in fervor halfway through the book, there is no decline in expressive language and mastery of detail. She creates scenes so exquisite, readers can feel the anxiety at the thought of flesh falling victim to a tattoo machine in “Shock Tattoo.”
The pictures she is able to paint with a few lines are masterful. The sights and smells of her travels sizzle up from the page. She is truly a storyteller. And, to be honest, the world really does need more poems dedicated to goats, and Cases delivers spectacularly with “Capra.”
If any readers find themselves excited about the prospect of reading poetry dedicated to goats, Drugstore Blue can be found on Amazon. Case is not only the author of such previous works as The Scottish Cafe and Kawiarnia Szkocka, but a professor at the New York Institute of Technology. She is also a poet to keep an eye on.
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