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Romance With Small-Time Crooks by Alexis Ivy reviewed in PANK

  

REVIEW - Romance With Small-Time Crooks by Alexis Ivy

~by Anne Champion

 Ivy-Cover-Really-Real-sm

 

BlazeVOX Books

90 pages/$16.00

The cover of Alexis Ivy’s debut collection depicts a scattered stack of cards and a hand overturning the Queen of Diamonds and the Eight of Clubs.  The Queen of Diamonds, of course, denotes power, royalty, and adornment, while the eight is a common symbol of infinity: all of this is embedded within the gamble, a game of chance, risk, and luck.  Similarly, these themes seem to trail the speaker of this collection in poems that take risks resulting in big payoffs.  These poems travel through the seedy underbelly of American life, exploring characters bound by their own self destruction embedded in a world of sex, drugs, liquor, and crime and a speaker that’s attracted to the scarred, the imperfect, and the dangerous.   While redemption and happy endings seem impossible in this collection, the poems refuse pity, instead transforming gutters into places of magic, insight, and growth.

Many poems in the collection recall still life paintings in their vivid imagery and details.  However, these still lifes illustrate ruin and utter desolation.  “So I Got Stoned,” depicts the actions and backgrounds of a speaker who has plummeted into silence.  The poem begins “I sorta wasn’t talking,/I sorta didn’t talk./I didn’t talk.”  These lines reveal the speaker’s reluctance to speak even now, as it takes several tries before anything can be said with any certainty.  Then, the still life gets painted through several sharp, compelling details, and the poem ends with the speaker’s reflection:

Wasted under
the willows at the Charles River,
chain smoking so I wouldn’t be
just sitting there.

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