Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: Coming in April 2011

This truly unique collection of poems is arranged to form an interesting, bittersweet and really fun novel.  I had not read anything quite like this before (okay Canterbury tales and the ancient Greeks).  When I first opened it, I was surprised: the description never mentioned poetry.  It was an early reviewer book that I bid on and sad to say I probably would not have bid on it if I knew it was all poetry.

Hunchback read very quickly.  In about 400 pages there were about 200 prose poems with a smattering of meter and rhyme--and even a picture poem or two. They were generally sad, funny and thoughtful looks at a 50 year old woman's mid-life crisis which included a daughter leaving home, a mother in the hospital and a marriage that was alternately on the rocks and the best marriage in the world.  There were some real points of tension and sadness that built up even through the prolonged use of poetry.  I could hardly believe poems could produce this heightened state of interest in the characters.

The author, Sonya Sones, is better known for her young adult novels.  In fact, it appears as though they might be constructing a marketing campaign for young adults with this book so perhaps they hope the book to have a crossover audience.  I think this is a fun little book and you will enjoy it especially if you are interested in seeing what poetry can do for a narrative.  This was a clever way to play with words.

I found myself reading each poem and asking myself if it could stand alone as a poem.  If you saw it reprinted in the New Yorker by itself would you enjoy it as a poem or would you miss everything since it is really part of a longer narrative?  I decided that most of them could.  I leave you with one of my favorites:


Worn out by this business
of always having to see things
with "fresh new eyes."

Just once I'd like to sit by the fire
without trying to figure out how to describe it
in a way that no one else ever has before.

I'm tired of meter, tired of form,
tired of rhyme, tired of off-rhyme,
tired of repetition, tired of metaphors--

Those wild...somethings
that never fail to fly south for the winter j
ust when I need them the most.

I am rife with,
no...overrun with,
no...bursting with

the boredom,
the monotony,
the tedium

of constantly
having to look up words
in my thesaurus.

I'm fed up with allusion,
alienated by allegory,
allergic to alliteration.

But I am especially tired of similes--
those sneaky figures of speech
that ceaselessly elude me,

just as
they're eluding me
right now

on this cloudy morning
that's like...
a cloudy morning.

I've had it up to here
with trying to invent another original way
to say "I'm really sad."

I'm not as melancholy as the song
of the mateless mockingbird,
 I'm just plain miserable--

and sick and tired
of being a poet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love your candid admission "sad to say I probably would not have bid on it if I knew it was all poetry." And the poem.... Can I borrow some time?