Discussion: Tulips, Water, Ash by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet

(This is a replacement post for the lost discussion post from June 26.)

I know that discussions of books are supposed to have a distance, and that we're supposed to be impartial and discuss all the parts and the symbolism and what the author/poet intends vs. what we take, but I just can't with Tulips, Water, Ash by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet. I'm head over heels in love with this book and with these poems. And I don't think I can be impartial about it any more than I can be impartial about my best friends or my sister-in-law--I can't imagine how anyone else wouldn't be as impressed with them as I am.

These are the things I know about Tulips, Water, Ash:

Each poem is a world. Some worlds are about big ideas, some are about minute moments from ordinary life. Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet turns them each into an entire world.

You can't race through this book. You know how each poem is a world? You need to give it time. Read it twice, then read it slowly, roll that one line around in your head, move your lips while you read, read it twice more.

There is one line--sometimes two--in each poem that kicks you right in the gut because it's the essence of everything. ("When did she stop disappearing/ the moment she covered her eyes?" from "Girl With a Camera")

At the same time, LGS's approach, the way she writes around and into and through, pulls you inside her ideas until you're there with her, even though you start out thinking this one may be too opaque for you. It never is, and you get to her perspective neatly. The poem "Married Sex" is like that, starting out with words I hadn't thought of in relation to sex, but the second and third time you read the poem it gels and you see where it came from.

There's something both baroque and lean about most of these poems that delights me.

"Once Upon A Time" is me and is probably you, too: "there was a girl who started reading/ and couldn't stop. Holed up/ with a stack of books, she laid them out/ where the other girls had dolls, heads"

And then the last stanza of "We're Used/ By Sweetness":

Use me like the bow
uses the hunter: arrow
arm and eye, that one
moment of sweet forgiving
nothing-elseness. That thing
we're made for.

If you haven't read the book yet, read it. Buy it or borrow it and spend the time to let these poems roll through you.

Does anyone else have thoughts? (And you don't have to be in love with the book like I am!)

(Next book in the Summer Reading series is American Sublime by Elizabeth Alexander on July 24.)