Noah Blaustein
  • Review
By – October 22, 2014

Noah Blaustein’s poet­ry para­dox­i­cal­ly per­ceives a tone of flirt­ing (“court­ing tri­fling­ly and amorous­ly, with­out seri­ous inten­tions,” as defined by the Ran­dom House Dic­tio­nary) and a height­ened sen­si­tiv­i­ty to pain and plea­sure — as in the title poem, in which he writes, All that effort/​in my late teens and twenties/​to hook up’/and hang out.’ No one ever said anything/​about hang­ing on to what you have. Without/​love I am a noisy going/​a clang­ing sym­bol.” The lat­ter, iron­i­cal­ly, is a Bib­li­cal allu­sion to Paul of Tar­sus, who called life a noisy gong” with­out love in the New Tes­ta­ment. Many of the poems in this col­lec­tion repeat the pat­tern of bru­tal pain par­al­lel to intense indul­gence, as when pre­sent­ing a wife’s mem­o­ries of El Sal­vador tor­ture and mur­der occur­ring while oth­er men were hav­ing sex with whores in the background. 

This is the real­i­ty of the vicis­si­tudes of life described and inti­mat­ed so stark­ly yet play­fully in oth­er vers­es, like Rave On”: “’What’s it like being a new Mom? and her answer/- thin lips any teenag­er would kiss-Moist. Life/​is incred­i­bly moist’ And I now know/​she was right…” Poems of ten­der, poignant expres­sion add to the diver­si­ty of forms and images here­in: in East Bay” the nar­ra­tor refers to the lit­er­ary giant William James, who remind­ed us that any­one look­ing on the face of a dead par­ent must for­ev­er after real­ize that mat­ter takes on such a spe­cial form should make all mat­ter sacred ever after…” a mem­o­ry com­ing to mind in a nor­mal fam­i­ly scene of mak­ing hot cocoa and s’mores are cooked on the bar­be­cue while the baby sleeps. What an inde­fin­able yet pre­cious image! This review­er loved the poem, The Coro­ner in the Grove” in which the poet cites a grand­fa­ther, So much light and free­dom out there/​what else can you do but screw up.” I love that,/’screw up’-/Even our mis­takes have direc­tion.” On these poems con­tin­ue, clear as an up-close pho­to­graph and as amor­phous as abstract art but evoca­tive in every verse.

Relat­ed content:

Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

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