With an introduction by Peter Johnson, we learn that Perel’s expertise is in strong traditional poetry. In Johnson’s words, “what makes someone who has been writing verse poetry for forty years suddenly write a book of prose poems?” Well, the answer is insignificant. For a poet should be able to express herself in whichever way she deems fit. No?
Regardless, Perel does a fine job; and, with her muse Carnelia (not Hamlet’s Cordelia), readers can picture what the music of a 50s style radio shaped as a heart would sound like—if written in prose poetry—by reading through Carnelia’s happenings.
Now; let’s get down to business.
Red Radio Heart is a book that must be read with care, perhaps in multiple passes. Only then may you appreciate Carnelia’s rich experiences; that is, each poem unveils Carnelia’s history. And, at the end, they reveal a physical and metaphysical representation of a woman’s existence.
After possibly three good passes, I did appreciate the quiet sadness of Carnelia. Despite my quick judgment in finding Carnelia a bit annoying, and perhaps the poems confusing at most times, I did find myself thinking about her and her oddities.
Three parts divide Red Radio Heart. In each part, Carnelia undergoes a revelatory experience—an experience that shows how her metaphysical presence lives about her physical world and vice versa. My two favorite poems are from the middle section and they’re called “Pastrami” and “The History of Carnelia’s Body,” two pieces that have shown me the strength in descriptive, yet, contradictorily, precise word choice that leaves all to implication:
It was a dream sequence: the wind, the canopy, everyone throwing earth on the casket, the burlap underneath it along with their parents’ names underneath and the femurs that had run with them. The ulnas that held them. The skulls singing the white song of the grave that has no sound but never ceases.” –“Pastrami”
Bow to her ovaries, those bowls of stars. And also to her womb from which a genius spun out, bawling, crushed by cold air and the iron lung of gravity. The closed down womb, now a museum piece.
It is her own treatment center for the addiction of living, of breath and water, her body a city succumbing to desert and flood, still poised against the echoes of battery.
Holy body of Carnelia’s blood. -—“The History of Carnelia’s Body”
I would recommend Red Radio Heart to those who enjoy quirky, non traditional forms of expression that are not necessarily at the level of avant-garde but, at most, unique in their own form.
¡PSST! ©2016 The Black Lion Journal
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