Monday, January 12, 2015

The Year of Yellow Butterflies

What a marvelous feeling: The Year of Yellow Butterflies, a poetry collection by Joanna Fuhrman, left me breathless; it is a literally breathtaking book. I say this because I could not put it down, and there is a light dreamsicle quality to some of the language that reading these poems gave me a wonderful floaty feeling. I had to force myself to slow down, to digest a poem before going on to the next.

One of the things that made this reading experience so extraordinary is the way delight operates here. The author delighting in language, delighting in writing, delighting in observing, in participating -- in starting and finishing delightful poems. BUT - at the same time there is something haunting at work: what world have we entered?

The Year of Yellow Butterflies is rich in images, rich in characters and animals and sensations. The richness is controlled, though, and the poems are beautifully crafted. There are so many little surprises -- from phrase to line, these poems move in unexpected directions and shift in sentiment and perspective in a dazzling way.

I loved the book as a whole, but some that stood out for me: the entire section "The Year of Yellow Butterflies"; "Goodbye to the Double Bells"; "Notes on the End of Thought" (both); "Summer" -- (with its stunning ending); "The Letter"; "Trigger Guard";  and "New Eyes for the New Year".  I want to quote so many lovely lines and sections, and entire poems, but I am choosing one section from the long center poem ("The Year of Yellow Butterflies"):

"It was the year everyone decorated the outside of their houses to look like the inside, and the inside to look like the outside.

You liked to wear a jumpsuit with an X-ray of a skeleton silk-screened on it. I liked to wear an earring shaped like a decaying liver.

Once I crashed into a friend's wall because I thought it was the sky.

We placed our teacups on a tree trunk ottoman and rested our heads on waterfall pillows.

You were wearing an ocean on your mouth, and I was dressed like the sun."

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