'Silent Treatment' by Lisa Lewis
Silent Treatment is published as part of the prestigious National Poetry Series, and, like most poetry collections from reputable publishers, it boasts enviable jacket praise from a handful of eminences. One looks for poetry to surprise, but this book's surprise—alas—lies in how bad it is. In the vast majority of these poems there is simply nothing interesting happening. Most present a kind of low-calorie psychodrama, without any redeeming sense of linguistic play. Dull poems could at least have the courtesy to be brief, but these are interminable: the very shortest is 32 long lines long, and many go on for several pages. Fifteen out of the 24 poems sprawl over three pages or more, with lines as tedious as these:
Not one man in my whole life has said I'm
Pretty. It's because they have discerning tastes.
My friend says her 300-pound boyfriend
Called her homely. He told her he'd repair
My problem with men. One night with him,
He said, and I'd be over it. She tells another
Story. I have to admit I'm curious.
I guess he thinks I've never been fucked.
I guess that's what he gets for not knowing me
All my life, when I had something to prove.
A hummingbird trapped in the indoor arena, I said,
My voice catching so I felt embarrassed. She looked
At me strangely; Can it get out? I asked. Oh, sure,
She said. The next day I found out. I rode my filly
Slowly beneath the hummingbird's skylight;
And there was its body. It had worn itself out.
Goddamnit, I don't know why that makes me so mad.
Maybe because I didn't try to help.
Really—do you think? I suppose the poet thinks this will be interesting to someone, but it's hard to imagine a literate person being riveted by such stuff. There are a few good poems (The anaphoric "I Knew If I Looked" stands out), and a few weirdly fascinating ones (such as "Sexology"), but on the whole Silent Treatment is frustratingly bland.