Gloss. Rebecca Hazelton. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, Wisconsin. 2019.
Marcus Wicker calls the poems in Rebecca Hazelton's Gloss "wise, sexy, well-tuned language machines." Now that is a line Today's book of poetry wishes we'd come up with ourselves.
Today's book of poetry has visited Rebecca Hazelton's poetry movie before. Back in March of 2014 Today's book of poetry was delighted to hit all you poetry monsters with a look at Hazelton's Bad Star (YesYes Books, 2013). You can read that here:
We were convinced that Hazelton could burn when we read Bad Star, but you have to get your hands on Gloss to see what she's cooking now. Today's book of poetry liked Hazelton's Bad Star very much but Gloss is simply at another level. A very splendid level.
Gloss is precise, emotionally certain and feverishly honest. These poems are so, so tasty. These are adult poems, the more experience the reader has the more these precious-cut diamonds will shine.
Self-Portrait As A Very Good Day
Behind dark glasses I am enormously present
wading in a pool of flickering light
algal at the edges
like a sick green dream of California
where dragonflies dip and skim
the surface of the lightly poisoned water
some of them
coupling on the fly
as if sex weren't already awkward
when I fuck I hardly levitate at all
and when I dive
beneath the water
I want to be detached
from the searing world above but how
does one stop caring
when there are so many
where are you where are you
come up there are snacks
so I swim back
to frozen grapes and lemonade
to the teenaged boys strolling by
with fishing poles and bait
while the young girls spin
on tire swings and scream to go faster
as if there were some shortage in the world
of speed or disaster
These poems work like a summer sunburn, forcing you to peel back a layer or two so that Hazelton can test her vocabulary on your tenderest skin. Make no doubt about it, she is going after the real you - and she gets there.
Gloss comes at you from multiple directions but Hazelton is in every word, embrace, every heart rendered bleeding. Today's book of poetry felt emotionally challenged with Hazelton's magic, we were forced to look closely at ourselves, our faults and our freedoms. Gloss is all over the gender battle, but like most of us, our theories weaken when surrounded by lust.
Rebecca Hazelton goes there and sets that shit aflame, eloquently. She writes about the heat of the blaze, the burn on the skin, the cold, black and wet ashes left behind.
When He Is A Woman
When he is a woman I set his hair,
the brown strands
exit the comb's teeth
gold, spill down his shoulders
to a slender waist I put my hands around
when I want him to feel small.
When he is a woman I am a man
and as a man I am aware
of how to make his breath catch as I touch
one freckled breast,
as I unbuckle
my buckle with a definitive air.
When he is a woman the love feels more
real, his eyelashes more real, his mouth
like an unkissed girl's more real,
and I hold to the fiction
he's never known another's hand
sliding up his thigh, not this way,
or another mouth
speaking these words that glide up his thoughts
the way a man declares
a land claimed, and then there's a flag.
When he is a woman
I feel optimistic,
when he is in a dress that suits
his small frame, when the heels
he walks in put his round hips to sway,
all these things make the smoke hover
above my scotch
on the rocks.
In this, as in all things,
I am traditional.
Today's book of poetry has been sidetracked in recent months by human business, funerals and weddings, the weight of days, and so on. Our intention is to return to our "every other day" format of posting blogs/reviews. Of course Today's book of poetry would like to be taller and sing like Saint Marvin Gaye. None the less we shall be after the gang to pick up the pace.
We can promise that our enthusiasm has not swayed. Today's book of poetry has a bookcase full of new poetry joys that we are dying to share with you poetry monsters.
Rebecca Hazelton's Gloss is the 800th blog/review in the Today's book of poetry catalogue. Who knew? Today's book of poetry is lucky to have Hazelton.
Self-Portrait With Your Head
Between My Legs
Glazed in sweat, I'm in the hot tropics
where the geckos Velcro across
the bedroom window
on fine invisible hairs,
where a perfunctory promise
hangs over us like a broken chandelier
I watch the ceiling
for cracks, a water stain
and try to imagine the happy
as if I could punch my own ticket
just by wishing harder
but the princess sleeps and sleeps.
Say peach, say plum, say typical
to split the velvet nap
with a clumsy thumb:
so much depends on
the idea of breakfast in bed
versus the sloppy practice.
Rebecca Hazelton's Gloss is just the ticket to get Today's book of poetry back on track. Gloss has everything you want from poetry. If you get inside Gloss it will teach you something about yourself. How often can Today's book of poetry claim that?
Hazelton's Gloss is as intimate as a kiss, as memorable as a crisp slap in the face.
ABOUT THE POETRebecca Hazelton is the author of Fair Copy, Vow, and the chapbook Bad Star, and the coeditor of The Manifesto Project. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, Poetry, and The New Yorker. A two-time Pushcart Prize winner, she is an assistant professor of English at North Central College.
BLURBS“A masquerade ball of velvety self-portraiture and a subversive parade of cultural norms recast as light kink. This book playacts its anxieties—gender roles and group texts, suburban mansions and contractual commitments—until the violence that underpins them is spotlighted on stage.”
—Emilia Phillips, author of Empty Clip
“Funny, irreverent, and searingly honest, Hazelton dares to explore the obligations that we have with one another and with ourselves. And who wouldn’t want to trust the speaker of these poems? In prickly, worldly, and intimate poems, Hazelton’s wit and wisdom urge us to understand beauty in our complicated lives.”
—Oliver de la Paz, author of Post Subject: A Fable
“These poems are wise, sexy, well-tuned language machines, full of stinging humor and quick-witted swagger, interrogating the highs and lows of cohabitation and maturation. Simply put, Gloss is masterful—a knockout collection I will continue to read, teach, and learn from for years to come.”
—Marcus Wicker, author of Silencer
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