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Notes To The Beloved Perfect Paperback – January 15, 2012

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Free Verse: Notes To The Beloved By Matthew Dickman | March 22nd, 2012 09:00 am Tin House Magazine

Poetry is not real.

That is, poetry is not memoir, not journalism, not the loops and spilled ink that make up a passage in an old, leather bound diary.

Image, simile, metaphor, certainly line breaks, do not exist in the physical world. Having an orgasm is not a simile for the ecstatic preservation of the soul; it's a chemical/physical (albeit awesome) reaction in your body. A father who puts cigarettes out on his son's arm is not a metaphor examining the violent contract between men; it's an action that s happening. There are no line breaks influencing meaning between a man and a woman that desperately wants to kiss each other but can't; it s just a bummer. But it is through image, simile, and metaphor that we understand, feel, and examine the physical world. In fact, it s through poets like Michelle Bitting that we get to experience this understanding, face this physical drama, and examine our own place at the table of human bodies, most intensely.

Michelle Bitting's award winning book, Notes to The Beloved; (Sacramento Poetry Center Press, 2011) is full of the physical world, illuminated by a dynamic narrative sensibility, a vision of down-to-earth love, an active yearning to understand the world, and plenty of kick ass images, metaphors, and similes:

You make a matchstick of your finger, dunk the tip in Bombshell Red. Then your lips are two flickers, in the shadows of your ears, smoldering flowers. You draw a smoky line between lid and lash and dash out

(from the poem Washed in Flame)

After reading this book not only did I understand the physical world in a more intimate and immediate way but I felt more a part of it. And what's more I wanted desperately to be the beloved, the other that an artist reaches for. Isn't this what we want from poetry? At least, isn't it one of the great desired experiences? To be turned around, made newer, have been blown up, by a collection of poems?

To be like Johann Sebastian/on the banks of the Rhine, letting notes fill the rivers/of his hands, then turning back/to compose the world,/map the road/aright with song, so/we could keep time/like this, getting high.? --Tin House Magazine

Bitting (Good Friday Kiss, 2008, etc.) returns with earthy, adventurous and existential free verse.

Bitting is the rare poet who clearly understands that sublimity is never more than one overwrought image away from absurdity. Though clearly capable of the sublime, she is careful to counterbalance the sacred with the profane and the transcendent with the commonplace in crafting what is, on the whole, a forcefully well-proportioned collection. In "Mammary," for instance, narrator and reader are transported by a chain of associations from the highway sights outside the narrator's car to visions of her friend's body as she undergoes a mastectomy. What begins as psychological free association grows increasingly mystical (and worshipful) as the narrator evokes Promethean suffering - "I imagine birds and flight / as the elliptical sweep of sharpness / cuts the pale sky of your chest, / steel beaks of surgical tools / carving out the flesh cream, / making smoke of tumor meat" - before resurrecting her friend's breasts as "two blond angels, / flying out / beyond the moon's milky scar" to "spread their innocence." As counterweight to such moments of profound pathos, Bitting demystifies some of life's most hallowed experiences, such as in "Birth," a darkly humorous portrayal of childbirth as a telescoping series of indignities in which a Demerol-injected mother on "a Jimi Hendrix acid trip" greets "her baby's head galumphing / through the ravaged pit" with "a sphincter blast of feces." Between these extremes, this collection covers a lot of ground - music, death, sex, family, autism, suicide, aging, food - but it always does so from the perspective of a thoroughly embodied narrator. There is a comfortable, even epicurean, egocentrism to Bitting's narrators that insists on the primacy of the sensual. In this way, and in the way her narrators respond to mortality by burrowing even further into their own skins, Bitting proves herself a sister poet to Anne Sexton, Sharon Olds and Sheryl St. Germain. Yet even with her range, lighter poems like "His Hat," a comic come-on to Johnny Depp, sometimes feel like filler.

Not a perfect collection but it comes close. --kirkus Book Reviews

About the Author

Michelle Bitting was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. A dancer and a chef, she studied theater at U.C.Berkeley and received an M.F.A. from Pacific University, Oregon. In 2007, Thomas Lux chose her manuscript Good Friday Kiss as the winner of the DeNovo First Book Award. Her prize-winning poems have been published widely in numerous journals including The American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner and Narrative Magazine. Poems have been reprinted on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Michelle teaches in the U.C.L.A. Extension Writer s Program and as a California Poet in the Schools. Notes to the Beloved won the 2011 Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award.

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Product Details

  • Perfect Paperback: 92 pages
  • Publisher: Sacramento Poetry Center Press (January 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983136238
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983136231
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,750,379 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I first read "Notes to the Beloved" in a single sitting, then dipped in for frequent visits over the following days, weeks - wanting to return to its beauty and bravery. A wonderful and rich mix of humor, heart, and heartbreak - incredibly crafted yet so immediate I feel like they are being read to me from across the table. The poems are all the best parts of Sharon Olds, Anne Sexton, and Erica Jong but in a unique, strong voice that is "throat open and heart full throttle" (`Baptismal') and Michelle Bitting's alone. The language here, musical with exquisite metaphors and open-hearted observations, is the kind of writing where one says, 'I wish I would have written that but, if I couldn't, I'm so glad someone did.' "Notes to the Beloved" is a book you will first savor alone in a quiet room but will want to share with friends, give as gifts. However you come to them, these poems are ones you will carry with you long after you've closed the book.
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Format: Perfect Paperback
It's a serious pleasure to hold Michelle Bitting's Notes To The Beloved in my hands and to be struck over and over
by the ferocious ease of this poet's gorgeous voice. Bitting's turns are surprising, her language stuns.
This woman rocks to a tight and lyrical beat with a spirit that goes charging down the page--arms and eyes
wide and never looking back.
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