Precious Energy. Shannon Bramer. Book Thug. Toronto, Ontario. 2017.
Today's book of poetry not only met Shannon Bramer a few months ago, we shared the same stage. Shannon graced the podium whereas Today's book of poetry kind of menaced it. It was a genuine pleasure to meet Bramer. We went prepared with a copy of her suitcases and other poems (Exile Editions, 1999) along with a copy of the recently published Precious Energy.
Today's book of poetry doesn't actually get to meet many of the poets that we write about on our blog. And you poets are a beautifully strange lot so when you meet a poet who resembles normal it is always a bit of a shock. Bramer is so down to earth and honest you'd almost think she were regular folk.
But she's one of us, cursed with poetry and putting a smile on things anyway.
When You Are Sad You Must Also
Get lice and buy the special combs.
Eat as much garlic as possible.
Stuff it up your ass.
Telephone your religious brother and challenge his beliefs.
Find a carpet catalogue and read it with an open mind.
Watch Law & Order.
Her perfect body's in the dumpster.
Clog up the toilet.
Buy a toy gun and point it at your head.
Point it at your husband's head.
Tell a new friend you need money.
Get down on your hands and knees
and beg for it.
Suitcases and Other Poems was Bramer's first book and it was nineteen years ago. Things have changed and so has Bramer. Along with all the skill and promise Bramer showed in her first book she's added a lifetime of adult living. Here's what Janice Kulyk Keefer had to say about suitcases and other poems.
"Uncanny, the brilliance and beauty of this first book of poems.
Shannon Bramer gives us both the sharp, clean bones of grief,
and the deliciousness of those perceptual shocks that makes us
see the already-known-gardens, suitcases, speckled fruit -- as if
for the first time, and through extraordinary eyes."
There's been a lot of water flow under Bramer's bridges since then. Bramer's voice in Precious Energy is mature in the best ways. A preciously dark sense of humour goes a long towards salving life's bruises. Bramer realizes, fully, that survival always includes scars -- both inside and out.
Bramer comes right out and says that thing. There may be boundaries in life but there are few in Bramer's poems.
The Cold Feel of The Forks and Knives
At 6:35 in the morning it's all in the sound
of the cutlery. How will he handle it?
If there is any roughness he's just hurried; don't
worry. Things will get easier. My son
likes to throw his plastic cup. We need to let him
touch things he might break.
Even me. I don't want to think about
my husband's hands
or the cold feel of the forks and knives.
I'm afraid of what comes next. I listen
to him empty the dishwasher.
It's a wonder some people are not sad.
He's pouring coffee now. He's on
the stairs with our third child
and coming in to wake me up.
Bramer mines those timeless minutes that make up real life and it makes for some very powerful poetry. Our morning read included both our Bramer titles. Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, took over the duties on suitcases and other poems, the rest of us passed around Precious Energy. We had Uyama Hiroto and Haruka Nakamura on the box so we took our time between poems to let them sink in.
Shannon Bramer writes superbly clean poetry about a woman's life. She writes about it with candor as though confessing and then throws in her own counterpoint to keep herself honest. Today's book of poetry is always going to have time for that.
The Days of The Fox
It was one drunken night after another, back
in the days of the fox. Once with the bottles
I put my own heart out with the trash
but three young raccoons found it first, tore it
to pieces in the cedars. My fox got nothing
that night but a few broken zinnias,
some sour cherry pits. I watched him
nuzzle the garbage until he noticed me, sober
as stars. He put his paws up
on the back door and I opened it
so he could smell me, my empty hands.
Let me in anyway, said the fox.
It's not your heart that I want.
Today's book of poetry admits that he was totally charmed when we met Bramer a few months ago -- and why wouldn't we be? Bramer has one of those voices where you can't wait to hear what the hell she's going to say next. Domesticity under a harsh glare can unravel quickly but Bramer has superb tools and pulls it all together. She's able to wrestle her demons and turn them into splendid poems and that is worth the price of admission any day.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
“With this collection Bramer has redeemed modern poetry. Precious Energy is a must for anyone who has ever had their clothes drenched in a child’s vomit, seen their cell phone as the enemy, momentarily failed to recognize their lover or wondered what the point of all this is.”
—Andrew Kaufman, author of All My Friends are Superheroes and Small Claims