I have been struggling with this review for some time. I am hopeless with poetry! I may know I like a given piece, a collection, but when I try and define why, look for the use of -of things— I struggle. I could talk about Anglo-Saxon poetry, discuss alliteration and themes, and (pseudo-) historical allusions, but modern poetry confuses me. ‘I knows what I likes,’ as they say, and the best I can do is flail about enthusiastically and hope I may hit why.
One of the modern poets I know I likes is Adrienne J. Odasso. Her first collection, Lost Books (2010), was published a short time ago and I was lucky enough to receive one hot from the presses. This is a first edition, folks, signed and everything. You can bet I cherish it.
Odasso’s work is haunting and mysterious, nostalgic and bittersweet, mysterious and sublime; the pieces run the gamut of human emotion. The tone is not what I would call dark, but it is not entirely light-hearted either. There are currents of heartbreak and uncertainty running through her work, dark forests littered with bone fragments. As related in “Mason-Dixson”, there are gunshots in the hills.
Other pieces feel unsettled, with an atmosphere distinctly of the Northern Hemisphere, yet neither European nor American. Some pieces are strange, leaving the stomach uneasy and the mind swimming for an interpretation in the mist. My personal favourite may well be “Which it was,” a beautiful and romantic piece. Or perhaps “Heresies”, a two-part poem that seems to tell an unfinished story.
Do not be mistaken. Lost Books is not miserable. I have heard it described as ‘ethereal’ and that is somewhat closer the mark. You cannot have heartbreak without love, or a dark wood without bright berries. One of the most clear and beautiful poems in the collection is “Not Eden”, about the joys of old books, strange wilderness- and eating sweet berries when you know you oughtn’t. It makes me smile everytime I read it.
I would read Odasso’s poetry into the long hours of the night, yet I can only take them piece by quiet piece. Like rich, soft chocolate or fine wine; you wish to never stop, and must.
Adrienne blogs over at Lost in Transcription.
Full disclosure: I have been an avid reader of Adrienne Odasso’s online work for some time. I would consider her a friend. Read this review accordingly.