Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston

Your Ten Favorite Words by Reb Livingston is a collection of whimsical poems that play with language and require more than a quick glance to understand.  I may not truly "get" them, but there's a Tori Amos quality about them that I loved.  I don't read a lot of contemporary poetry, but when Your Ten Favorite Words was chosen for the book club discussion for Serena's appearance on That's How I Blog, I was willing to give it a try.

The book is divided into three sections, "Our Rascal Asses," "Unsweet and Looking for a Fix," and "Burgers and Pitchforks," each beginning with a conversation involving The Man with the Pretty Chin, The Smitten Girl, and The Heart Specter.  In the final section, The Heart Specter says, "You a(re des)pair that's lost it's (s)mitten," and I enjoyed these lines with double meanings.

Your Ten Favorite Words is mainly about relationships between men and women.  Some of the poems seem clumsy, like relationships often are, while others are more sexual or sensual.  Almost all of them left me scratching my head.  While I was able to pull out lines and stanzas that made sense to me, I don't think I could take any one poem as a whole and say I "got" it.  For instance, in "What Doesn't Do," Livingston writes:
Trolls took my terry clots and I don't like to drive when a long poem kicks me in the shiver chambers making me hallucinate experts and loving Shiva.  Am I the flesh that's lost her way?  (page 22)
In other poems, Livingston takes feelings I am familiar with and throws in some weird imagery, like in "Clutch."
Who wants this boxcar waiting,
these cardboard tubes?
I think everyone wants each other's
arms, those error-filled limbs
flailing everywhere but around us.

They pull you in just so
they can shove you away.
There's something to be said for that
whopping one person and it's not
chopped liver or potato salad or lemon

asparagus. (page 36)
Overall, I liked Your Ten Favorite Words, and as I look through the poems again to write my thoughts, I'm finding things I didn't find before.  I think it's one of those poetry collections you have to read over and over to truly appreciate.

Disclosure: I borrowed Your Ten Favorite Words from Serena, whose collection of poetry books is far more extensive than mine.  I am an Amazon affiliate.

© 2010, Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not copy or reproduce content without permission.


Serena said...

I really enjoyed this book as well -- the play on words, etc.

I like your honest review

Suko said...

It sounds like there is a lot to decipher in this book of poems. I enjoyed reading your review.

bermudaonion said...

Hm, I think these poems might be tough for me to understand.

Sullivan McPig said...

sounds promising

Sandy Nawrot said...

Very clever! And you are right, it does sound like Tori Amos!!!

Staci said...

This is why poetry intimidates me!!!

The Bookworm said...

This sounds like an interesting collection.

Jeanne said...

I find that true about poetry in general--I have to read it over and over to understand it. Doesn't everyone?

Also I really love the lines "everyone wants each other's/arms"

Care said...

I was captured by the title! This sounds like an interesting collection and one I just might try. :)

DCMetroreader said...

I don't usually read poetry and this sounds a little challenging.

Amused said...

I can't remember the last time I read a book of poetry - probably in school! This one sounds very interesting though and I really enjoyed your review!

Belle said...

I'm not a big reader of poetry, but the excerpts you posted really intrigued me. I might pick up this one up!

Alyce said...

Poems like that drive me crazy and turn me away from poetry in general. I like the old-school poetry better.

Anna said...

Thank you all for taking time to read my review and leave a comment. This is a challenging collection, but I think it's worth giving a try.