A review by guest blogger, PeggyDobreer
Open 24 Hours, winner of The 2013 Blue Lynx Poetry Prize is an extraordinary volume of poetry by one of LA's own; master teacher, poet, and cultural icon, Suzanne Lummis. This is a double sassy book of poetry that even so, teeters on the edge of historical fiction, and delivers a guised but sophisticated curriculum.
A long time teacher for UCLA Extension and independent workshops, Lummis's #9 Broken Rules poems, as in Broken Rules #3, "No past tense permitted":
"Or try this: package it,
Mark it Was. Leave it in a locker
At the Greyhound Bus station."
and pieces dedicated to various poetic devices as in “Sad Poem In Winter - With Assonance, Consonance and Other Occasional Effects,”
"..like a dream
Of Hollywood. Meanwhile
The rain strikes swollen rags,
shopping carts, the essential smashed flat Styrofoam cup.
I want to burn like a saint,
but I can't, so I'll smoke
my last menthol down to the butt.",
are an education unto themselves and of benefit to writers. Lummis is always teaching, as in, “Broken Rules #5, How To Write the Love Poem”:
"Don't say My soul longs for you,
Say, In this life I am occasioning a body
That needs yours. And wants."
She breaks it down to the easiest equation. Poet? Life coach? Solvable. Certainly, in print.
The poems in this book sizzle on the page like a neon sign in a neglected neighborhood after closing. Lummis' crisp, sometimes caustic voice, and quick wit put us on guard as though we are 'in danger' (the title of her earlier collection.)
The characters reveal themselves in short visual clips, almost like the flickering of the aforementioned neon:
"His wife is this heart-shaped
metallic balloon that got loose
and bobbed up high over
the jammed intersection..."
The poems compel us to continue, like a dark metal stairwell down which we can hear the sound of our own heels descending. They have no dreamy penthouse views, no highfalutin' family traditions.
They are fire escape poems, rooftops that might house broods of doves, slews of unsavory situations, and characters standing on their own lean shadows, falling prey without fanfare, not a shred of schmaltz. These poems are fearless jumpers without gear.
If you love the seeded underbelly of the streets of L.A., spiffed up with the glamor and intrigue of Hollywood noir, you will love Lummis' sensibilities, and you will want to have her books. If you don't yet, get them for sure. Soon you will find yourself watching old Raymond Chandler movies and visiting unsung landmarks you had forgotten existed. The books will become your late night bedfellows.
But don't be a wimp. Lummis won't hold your hand. And she won't give the plot away without an investigation. If you want to know who dunnit, you'll have to follow the clues, be careful not to trip over the casualties.
Open 24 Hours, © 2014 Lynx House Press (http://lynxhousepress.org/books/open-24-hours), ISBN 9780899241388, 80 pgs, $16.95 (U.S)
review content and author photo © 2014 Peggy Dobreer
poetry content/book cover art © 2014 Suzanne Lummis and Lynx House Press