Full of Ears and Eyes am I
by Lauren Suchenski
Finishing Line Press
Price: $14.99 US
Full of Ears and Eyes am I is an attractive book. Finishing Line Press has created a well-produced book with cream-colored heavy stock pages and a matte cover featuring floral-like art from Ms. Suchenski.
This is a pleasant book. But this is not a pleasing book. Pleasant, to me, is not very lasting. Pleasant passes. Pleasing is satisfying, lasting. In reading Full of Ears and Eyes am I I found much to enjoy. So many of the poems felt the same, though, that the pleasure soon wore off. We are given repeated allusions and outright depictions of transformations, a speaker swept up in the world and not becoming an active participant in it. The speaker is a witness, not a character in these poems, thus she/he is spectator, not agent in the activity, weaker than the actions around him/her. How satisfying is he world if one does not become active in it?
In and of itself, a poem here and there with a passive speaker works. But so repeated a voice grows wearisome. Likewise, the use of a portion or all of a poem’s first line as that poem’s title grows stale. 27 of this book’s 28 poems are so titled. It’s a conscious choice of Ms. Suchenski, but it may show she lacks the creative energy to actively title her works. Charming as her first lines may be, they are just that: first lines, not the entire meat or message of her poems. Passivity shows in this, too. If she can’t be bothered to care enough to work at titles, should the reader care all that much for the poems which follow?
And what of the poems themselves? Imagine if Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was only “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” repeated 10 times. That’s the effect of Full of Ears and Eyes am I. One trippy poem after another with a psychedelic quality to most of them. In smaller doses interspersed with more down-to-earth poems might have been a better choice so the reader could feel more centered, less in the swirls and eddies Ms. Suchenski creates constantly in her lines.
These poems in this chapbook eschew standard punctuation and capitalization. In her bio paragraph, Ms. Suchenski tells us she “has a difficult relationship with punctuation.” Cute as that may be, readers need to get a sense she tries to understand the rules she chooses to break or ignore. Many well-established poets forego standard punctuation, grammar, usage, etc. but they earned the right not do so after years of work. To fill a first book with seeming laziness toward the rules of English is either a brave decision or a foolish one. The lack of punctuation and capitalization is, again, fine here and there. But an entire book of that type of poetry grows old quickly.
I want to highlight one poem of those in this book, the one whose title is not the poem’s first line, “A letter to the center of the universe.” In this poem, we see a very different writer. Here Suchenski gives us an active speaker, one demanding justice and attention, one commanding with her/his voice, not lapsing into mere description. This is a style I very much hope to see in the future from l.auren Suchenski.
The lyrical power of the poems in Full of Ears and Eyes am I is impressive. The passivity of the poet is disappointing. Greater variety of voice and theme would have made this chapbook a much more enjoyable, sustained effort. We are served one dish at this dinner, with one satisfying garnish.
I DID enjoy the poetry in this book. But too much of one thing in most cases is a bad thing. For me, such was the case here.