Half Angel Half Lunch
Hard Press, West Stockbridge, MA, 70 pp., $10, 1998
On first reading Sharon Mesmers first full-length collection of poems Half Angel Half Lunch, I thought, shes an earth sign. However out-there, in-the-air her logic, she always roped back down (mud), or held back the language (Chicago-Brooklyn mind-pavement) with her goddamn Polish foot on top. Since I didn't, and still hardly know much about astrology, I was unaware of the "fire" sign. On its discovery, I cashed-in the earth and air.
Half Angel Half Lunch is a fiery and inventive book. The writing is strong throughout, running the gamut from hard-nosed prose poems to bluesy-nursery rhymes. In the poem "Ed Goes The Way Of Flesh," Mesmer explores the linguistic resources of all-out love, she writes:
And now your brain is on me like a bad song,
and your smell is in me like a tomb,
and true love is upon you,
like an ill-fitting suit.
Insanely, (and its difficult to prove this in a review of this or any length) but even her choice of her letters sometimes and somehow contribute to a kind of flammable poetry. This poem makes heavy use of frontal E's and I's to create a thin, clear and bright vocabulary (fire), at the same time counterbalancing with the expressed dental firmness of many D's. The name "Ed" itself is a yin and yang of earth and air. For me the lines, "Ed,/like an ill-fitting suit," creates a kind of punchy flint.
In another poem "Indigo," we are cinematically swooped into day after new day with something or somebody (perhaps both) called Indigo. For me Indigo fires the imagination on-the-path of some nuanced hunch, naming after some felt force. Mid-poem and mid-week Mesmer writes:
And next it is a Wednesday night
when I see Indigo,
and it's league night at the Miami Bowl,
and Tessie wins the candlelight,
and for an hour she is the layabout in the limelight,
and then it's back to the homebound housemother,
and she sees Indigo too.
Indigo, then, is an energy, not wholly a woman, a place, or specific thing; she is a struggle, not a thought, but an endless cycle of pursuit: I see Indigo. Where is Indigo?
and I see Indigo:
beside herself in the world of beauty,
she is the blondest blonde in the balance dance,
a rack of enchantments.
The poem moves and ends in ennui on a Saturday in summer where excess is always more important than necessity.
All summer drinking whiskey sours under a pink light,
practicing melodramatic mentalism,
and the true art of forgetfulness.
And then it's Saturday,
and my heart is rented out till winter,
and my lassitude is left behind,
and I see departures in affections, and shining sounds,
and I see Indigo.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea, Mesmer burns her boat with an indigo-blow torch. When her poems burn you in the ass and heaven swallows her smoke, you might just crow. I like these poems because you never know where you are going to end and because they feel real to me. On the other hand, their realism isnt real at all, but instead informed by an animated consciousness. Wherever you understand her from, shes a few notches below an angel, but always ready to lunch.
Even the blurbs for her book reflect several sensibilities. Poets as different as Alice Notley and Hal Sirowitz (whom I both like, but aren't side-by-side in my mind's bookshelf) weigh-in on a writer whose hard-to-peg and vital sensibility are both. Notely, notes Mesmer's presences by saying the work "reflects a new kind of poetry consciousness." She adds, that Mesmer "creates a fabulous tissue of language which floats out to inhabit other bodies, open their mouths and makes them speak." This "fabulous tissue of language" is similar to my read of the fire floating poetry as existing somewhere between earth and air.
The semi-legendary poet Jack Micheline wrote, "They're still asleep in America. Nothing has changed only more frightened souls. So to you, who believe in oneself, keep going on and say the sky is blue, and say hello to the fat girl on the bus. Give her a kiss for me, the beautiful unknown, the blessed rare souls all over the world." Sharon Mesmer kisses the fat girl, and the fat boy for that matter. Her poems kiss your grandmother. Still, watch it; If you think you're going to kiss her back: boy, girl, grandma, she might knock you out, or she might just keep on kissing.
Sharon, the sky's blue today. Thank you.