Tell me something I don’t know. It’s a good conversation starter whether you’re engaging with another person or, in this context, a poem. As I reader, I get the most thrill out of a poem that directs my attention to something I’ve never noticed before. This is what you can expect from Shameless and Plotting Temporality, two collections by Suzanne Roberts.
Roberts has a knack for showing her audience how poetry brings the extraordinary out of the ordinary. She holds a magnifying glass to those things we overlook, and she does it with a sense of humor. The following piece, excerpted from Plotting Temporality, gives us a taste of Roberts’ ability to command our attention with refreshing observations about the simple things we might fail to notice:
“My Lover’s Feet”
Many things, I can’t imagine,
cannot picture a prehistoric world
long before the sky turned blue.
But the mundane is the more strange-
unable to picture a lover’s feet.
I see the stones of his spine, the curving
neck in sleep. The hip bones slanted,
and the navel spiraling in and in.
The fingers thinly knuckled,, broken kites
of glass in the blue eyes, the tidy rows
of teeth, but not the ankle, the arch-high
or low? The toes, I do not know.
I must have never glanced down at his feet,
the knowing him left incomplete.
Tell me something I don’t know, and if I already know about it, tell it to me differently. Besides the instant gratification we get from encountering fresh concrete details, poetry offers countless metaphors through which we view the world. This is where language really gets fun—there’s nothing like a witty piece of verse that puts the human experience in terms of a non-cliché phenomenon. “Why You Stay,” a poem from Shameless, expresses the dangers of infidelity in terms of an untethered balloon:
“Why You Stay”
Your friend tells you
you’re the balloon.
Your husband has the string
tied to his wrist, so you won’t
float away. Her hands whirl
like fans, show you
exactly what happens.
to a balloon without anchor.
Roberts’ poetic lens is sharp. Her concrete, observation-driven poems are just as astute as her blocks of extended metaphor. If you are a seasoned writer or reading poetry for the first time, Shameless and Plotting Temporality are excellent places to join in the lyrical conversation about our shared experiences. – Joanne Mallari