Friday, February 2, 2018

Precious Energy - Shannon Bramer (Book Thug)

Today's book of poetry:
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.

Write Sestinas.
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.

Image result for shannon bramer photo

Shannon Bramer

Poet and playwright Shannon Bramer lives in Toronto. Previous collections of poetry include: suitcases and other poems (winner of the 2000 Hamilton and Region Best Book Award), scarf, and The Refrigerator Memory. She has also published chapbooks with above/ground press and BookThug, and regularly conducts poetry workshops for students of all ages. An illustrated collection of poems for very young children is forthcoming from Groundwood Books in the spring of 2019. Precious Energy is her first full-length collection in over a decade.

“Shannon Bramer writes with a candor that is as clever as it is devastating. Through masterfully crafted studies of the everyday, Bramer transcends, in the manner of Lydia Davis, drawing the domestic into utter sublimity.”
—Robin Richardson, author of Knife Throwing Through Self-Hypnosis

“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

Shannon Bramer 
reading from Precious Energy
Video: Jay MillAr


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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