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I picked up The Day is Ready for You in April at a Books-A-Million because I’d flipped open to the first poem, “Never”, and it resonated with me straight off. It’s one of those poems that makes you jerk back your neck and think, “Wow, that’s the phrase that describes what I’m feeling. Who knew!” This simple encounter with Malee’s poetry promised a collection that would explore love and loss using vivid and delightful imagery. While the poems are lovely and immersive, the collection also explores complicated interpersonal relationships in a way that was unique but echoes scenarios that every woman has been through at some point.
Poems like “Right” and “Exhales”, explore the ups and downs of a relationship. The poet doesn’t turn away from tension or toxic love, and she gives the reader a close up of the push and pull of entering and leaving a relationship. It was nice to be reminded that art provides a space to think deeply about the nuances of our experiences. Malee showcases the intricacies of love especially well.
In some ways, reading Alison Malee’s poems felt like reading a memoir. Her life is seamlessly woven into the beauty of each line. Most poets draw on their life experiences to write, but Malee’s vulnerability on the page made me feel as if a new friend was sat across from me, rehashing old stories, pointing out her scars. This collection unravels slowly and immersed me like a novel or a good conversation would. Pieces I especially liked were “Never”, “Something Like”, and “Caught”.
In way of critique, I felt that the author, at times, over-explained the scenarios or thought processes in the poems. I crossed through a fair number of lines that stole the mystery. In poems like “Morning” and “Mistaken”, I wanted to wonder at the meaning instead of having it handed to me over the page. I wanted to observe and draw my own conclusions. The writer did not leave the story behind each poem vague, which I was grateful for, but she also pushed the reader’s interpretation to the margins in some cases by explaining its meaning in the very next verse.
“Mountains” and “Learn” seemed only to provide information of the poets overall narrative or promote an ideology rather that set a scene or create an image. Over use of what I would call “outline driven” or “filler” poems is common in contemporary poetry publications and could just be a product of the poet needing to extend the manuscript to a certain page count. While there’s nothing wrong with including works in order to extend a collection, there were a few from The Day is Ready for You that could have been left out. Those pieces only bored me and caused my mind to wander.
I mentioned earlier that the collection as a whole was immersive and that’s true. Filler poems didn’t ruin the reading experience all together, but in my opinion, the pieces certainly did not add to the positive aspects of the collection and seemed to only serve the purpose of meeting a word count for the publisher. Obviously, I don’t know what the publishing process was like for Alison Malee, so take these critiques with a grain of salt.
Poetry can be a very personal act, and I’m so glad to see more poets entering the industry and expanding our ideas of what poetry can be. Do line breaks make a poem? No, and the first critique you here of modern or “tumblr” poetry today is that the poems consist of simple phrases cut up by line breaks.
My gut impulse is to say, “Yes, of course line breaks don’t make a poem a poem!” But we forget to look at the rest of the poem when we critique in this finite way. Is the narrative of the poem nuanced? Does it use cerebral images that make us forget we were reading a book? Do the words seem to curl off the page with a rhythm and cadence? Then, in essence, it is poetry.
If you’ve read The Day is Ready for You, please let me know the thoughts you’re left thinking and your views on modern poetry!
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Poet. Reader. Lifelong Student.