Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Silence of Doorways - Sharon Venezio (Moon Tide Press)

Today's book of poetry:

The Silence of Doorways.  Sharon Venezio.  Moon Tide Press.  Irvine, California.  2013.

Sharon Venezio can burn.  The Silence of Doorways bursts at its binding with brilliant barbs and bromides.  Today's book of poetry has a weak spot for certain automobiles and car-think so when Venezio gave us a kiss/hug tribute to her '76 Chevy Nova we were prisoners of love.

Venezio just doesn't let off of the gas.  No book is solid gold and this one isn't either, but pound for pound Venezio is a stone cold killer poet, she has all the goods.  Today's book of poetry was touched by the quiet tenderness woven in and out of these poems.  We were also heartened by the heat tempered terror Venezio was able to access by snapping her wise fingers.

Psychology 402: Brain and Behavior

When I discover I have to dissect a sheep's brain,
I go down the hall to Animal Behavior and plead my case,
but it's too late. I'll have to pry my way through
the four ventricles, push pins into gray matter and breathe
formaldehyde through a useless white mask.

I hold the brain in my awful hands, make an incision
at the base of the cerebellum, place a red pin
into the pineal gland, a green pin into the amygdala:
here's where it feels joy, here's where it feels fear,
here's where it remembers the beautiful dying stars.


Once again Today's book of poetry feels hoisted by my own petard.  There are way more than three poems Today's book of poetry feels necessary to bring to this party.

Whether Sharon Venezio is talking about family and how much fun that love/hate fiasco can be or the larger political/human issues like genocide and murder and mayhem, her strop sharpened pen nails it to the page like she was using a hammer.

She could even be in a bar.

From a Bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey

have to pretend
i am someone else
someone who smiles
while she pours drinks
tilts the bottle just right
so the liquor flirts
with the air
on the way into the glass
a foot and a half of formica
defines our role
all night they mine
my face for a clue
think i am someone
they can love
slur their dedications
in half-light
by midnight
cocaine's stimming
bird mouth
whoops at winter sky
through open door
this helps them
pretend they are
someone else
forget the snow
piling up on hoods
of cars forget the children
sheeted in beds
sleep wrapped around
their bright bodies


Did I just read that?  Yes, I did.  The Silence of Doorways rears up and slaps the reader in the head every once in a while.  It's like Venezio reaches right up off of the page with an attention-slap.

Today's jazz allusion is that you think you are reading Dexter Gordon, all tight and whispery, controlled and precise and beautiful and then Ornette Coleman sneaks in the back door and blows that shit up!  Of course Venezio isn't talking jazz, she's too busy explaining how the world's heart works, Today's book of poetry just threw that allusion in there because we know how much some of you love jazzthink.

Our regular morning read was an enthusiastic romp.  Most of Venezio's poems are relatively short and as we went around the room the poems blasted out from each successive Today's book of poetry staffer as though we were gunslingers in a circle and showing off our draw.

Family Album

Here a cigarette dangles between her thin fingers;
she sleeps through conversation and ash.
Here she closes her eyes and the sea stops moving.

And here she is boneyard of unspoken words,
salt in the quiet throat of her marriage.
Here she is the green whiff of childhood.

Here she is sparrowed at the edge of the earth,
exiled in her dying skin. Here, like sorrow,
she is liquid in the bones.

And here is the day she will be gone, her eyes resting
no longer upon the tulips, their white
petals, like teeth, fall to the ground.

Here she is hair, and nail, and noise in the brain.
And here, dear body, be still. Time is the only lover
that will touch her now.


The Silence of Doorways is quiet thunder.  Sharon Venezio is a quiet poet assassin.  So much is on offer in these rumbling pages that it reads like a bigger book.  Today's book of poetry likes when a poet can make us smile, cry, nod our head in familiar recognition, shake our head in awe.  Venezio fills the card.

Sharon Venezio

Sharon Venezio recieved an MA in creative writing from San Francisco State University. Her poems have appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Chaparral, Midway Journal, Reed, Transfer, Two Hawks Quarterly and elsewhere. She is co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets and works as a behavior analyst in Los Angeles. The Silence of Doorways is her first full-length collection. 

What appeals to me most about these surpassingly lovely poems is the way they combine a trace-like calm with a sense of unease, and a luminous clarity with a feeling of deep abiding mystery. And when she's really on her game, Sharon Venezio--one of the best darn lyric poets to have wandered into L.A. in many a year--can make the ephemeral seem tangible and the mundane transcendent. Few could draw forth such elevated notes as these from a five-hundred dollar '76 Chevy Nova: "It was more beautiful/ than salt air,/ ocean, wing.// It was passage,/ shift, spark.// The bone dry/ squeaky waste land/ where life began."
     - Suzanne Lummis

In this impressive debut collection, Sharon Venezio photographs the stopped fragments of memory in order to restore the self to a dynamic flux of lived experience--"the wild dishevelment of being, that fierce blue drowning"--a kaleidoscopic portrait that refuses the social mediated subject position and the hunted vulnerability fixed by a male scope. In a daring act of rescue and art making, Venezio seeks the frameless frame, one that comprehends without limiting, shelters without walling in the silence.
     - Chad Sweeney

These completely engaging and unselfconscious poems are attentive to memory's various gifts and terrors, and its impact on both the outer and inner life. Witness her history with family, birds, a 1976 Chevy Nova, the breathing of a sleeping lover, the presence of insects and wild animals--Venezio captures all of it with her inner camera and presents to us her long-awaited fruits of "the burden of memory." From fiery, heart-stopping meditations on a childhood and elegies to joyous still lifes and portraits, she works by hand a personal museum with perfect words arranged just so. Poets and everybody, listen when she says, "if you want to avoid annihilation, open your mouth and sing" and get ready to be sung to in this marvelous first collection.
     - Roxanne Beth Johnson

Portraits & Landscapes, the poetry of Sharon Venezio
Video: Brian Newberry


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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