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Crush (Yale Series of Younger Poets) Paperback – April 11, 2005
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“Siken writes about love, desire, violence, and eroticism with a cinematic brilliance and urgency that makes this one of the best books of contemporary poetry.”—Victoria Chang, The Huffington Post (Victoria Chang The Huffington Post)
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Top Customer Reviews
These are poems with speakers who want desperately to understand what is going on around them, want to explain them. But time and time again, the poems demonstrate that we are incapable of ever really recounting experience with any real degree of faithfulness.
And gorgeous, these poems are. I am glad there are poets like Louise Gluck out there judging book contests because the world needs books like this one. It is easily one of the best first books published in the last decade. It heralds the arrival of a stunning new voice. I will be anxiously and "faithfully" looking for Mr. Siken's work in the future.
When I compile my list of the ten best reads of the year, I have no doubt whatsoever that Richard Siken's first book, Crush, will be on that list, possibly at the top. I could stare at the cover for hours-- a close-up of a mouth, and a hand, thumb wet with blood, or perhaps motor oil. It fits perfectly with the contents of the book, which are clingy, suffocating, obsessive, and uniformly brilliant. Louise Gluck writes in her introduction that "[f]or a book like this to work, it cannot deviate from obsession (lest its urgency, in being occasional, seem unconvincing)...". She is, of course, correct; how obsessive can you be if you are not constantly turning your obsession over in your mind or your hands? And Siken provides a picture of obsession that is hauntingly pure.
"...Your name like
a song I sing to myself, your name like a box
where I keep my love, your name like a nest
in the tree of love, your name like a boat
in the sea of love-- O now we're in the sea of love!
Your name like detergent in the washing machine.
Your name like two Xs like punched-in eyes,
like a drunk cartoon passed out in the gutter,
your name with two Xs to mark the spots,
to hold the place, to keep the treasure from
becoming ever lost. I'm saying your name
in the grocery store, I'm saying your name on
the bridge at dawn. Your name like an animal
covered with frost, your name like a music that's
("Saying Your Names")
There is something not right about this, and it's obvious from even a cursory read. In the hands of many (perhaps most) other poets, a passage like this would come off sappy-sweet. Siken makes it distressing, darkening it until finally the reader is trapped there in the pit with him, for no matter how dark this collection gets (and this is the tip of the iceberg), there is always that seductive, lilting quality to Siken's lines that never quite lets the reader go, even long after the back cover is shut.
This is one for the ages. *****