Poet­ry

Super­doom: Select­ed Poems

  • Review
By – September 21, 2021

Melis­sa Broder, well-known for her nov­els Milk Fed and The Pisces and the essay col­lec­tion So Sad Today, was first a poet. Broder con­fides in the intro­duc­tion of her new col­lec­tion Super­doom that she left poet­ry for prose to earn a liv­ing; she writes, Let’s be hon­est, poet­ry doesn’t make it rain.” Super­doom con­tains poems from her first four poet­ry col­lec­tions, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Moth­er, Meat Heart, Scare­crone, and Last Sext. These poems per­son­i­fy Broder liv­ing in the messy world filled with bod­i­ly flu­ids, doubts, and long­ings while yearn­ing for a spir­i­tu­al world: illu­mi­nat­ed, transcendent.

In the title poem, Super­doom,” Broder writes, There are 200 fla­vors of pan­ic, / the worst is see­ing with no eyes.” Broder calls the sen­sa­tion SUPER­DOOM” and describes an expe­ri­ence at a mall where the earth kept com­ing and com­ing.” To address the pan­ic she tries to stuff a TV / in the hole where prayer grows.” The link­age of a tele­vi­sion with the space of prayer is emblem­at­ic of Broder’s com­bi­na­tion of the quo­tid­i­an with the sub­lime. Her every­day dic­tion is punc­tu­at­ed by sur­re­al images.

Broder notes in the intro­duc­tion that her poet­ry con­tains the same psy­chos­pir­i­tu­al and mythopo­et­ic themes that inspire my prose writ­ing.” She con­tin­ues, We write our obses­sions, and mine seem to be — in these poems and now in prose — sex, death, con­sump­tion, god, spir­i­tu­al long­ing, earth­ly long­ing, and holes.” What is so delight­ful about Broder’s poems are the dra­mat­ic leaps that she makes among her obses­sions. She punc­tu­ates the inter­re­lat­ed­ness of dai­ly life with spir­i­tu­al insight. In Spir­it Fear,” for exam­ple, she opens with The room where I will die is every­where.” She then con­tin­ues lis­ten­ing for a sig­nal of death and in lines like this one col­laps­ing the self with signs: Sig­nal from the dog who is a wolf who is me.” These leaps reveal lines like I make pock­ets of dark­ness so the room looks like heav­en” and even­tu­al­ly the poem comes to rest with a con­clud­ing line, Make the dead smell like the dead.”

The poems of Super­doom careen between tran­scen­dence and van­ish­ing, an expe­ri­ence Broder ascribes to writ­ing the poems on the sub­way in New York. She con­fides, It would be my joy, read­er, if you find in some of these poems a bit of tran­scen­dence for your­self. I wish for you only the very best kind of van­ish­ing. If you need respite from the body, I hope you get it. If you need free­dom from the space-time con­tin­u­um, that too.” These hopes are a prayer by Broder for her read­ers. They con­tain both aspi­ra­tion for Broder’s poet­ry and illu­mi­na­tion of all poet­ry: a moment of reflec­tion, insight, soli­tude, com­mu­nal desire. Not rain exact­ly, but per­haps a mist on the horizon.

Julie R. Ensz­er is a schol­ar and poet. She is the author of four col­lec­tions of poet­ry: Avowed, Lilith’s Demons, Sis­ter­hood, and Hand­made Love, and is the edi­tor of The Com­plete Works of Pat Park­er and Milk & Hon­ey: A Cel­e­bra­tion of Jew­ish Les­bian Poet­ry

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