A Weekend with The Real Warnings

I knew poet Rhett Iseman Trull as an editor, first.  I picked up a copy of her journal, Cave Wall, a year or so ago, and loved its contents.  Then, somehow, I found out that she was a poet, too [insert sarcasm here — I don’t know why I’m always surprised to find out that editors are often writers, too!]  So, I asked for her collection, The Real Warnings, winner of the 2008 Anhinga Prize for Poetry, for Christmas, and it has now officially become the first poetry book I have finished in 2011.

The Real Warnings is a collection that explores the bizarre, and often brutal, boundaries of love.  Sometimes, Trull uses lyrics for this exploration.  However, her narratives are my favorite.  Sometimes her stories have autobiographical overtones; other times, figures from popular culture and fairy tales saunter in and out of her works. In one poem, “Introducing My Brother in the Role of Clark Kent” the narrator talks about her brother’s love story with a woman who has “secrets/glinting in her eyes like kryptonite.”  In another poem, “There was a Moment on the Way Home When Hansel Left Gretel” a narrator takes on the voice of Gretel, asserting her strength, explaining “I’m the one who has killed for us, who still hears/the witch’s bones snapping in the fire.” 

In the middle of this collection, Trull includes a section titled “Rescuing Princess Zelda” that explores the lives of  patients in a mental institution.  In this part of the book, we are introduced to such characters as Josh, May and Casey.  In one poem, patient Josh has a crush on a “girl from Duke who, to earn credit/for her abnormal psych class, visited/every week.”  In another poem, we learn about May “who struts around all day/in shirts ripped off at the midriff, who flings/her long flamingo legs over the side/of the rec room’s single arm-chair and tells us/adventures of her life before.”

Of course, I am going to recommend The Real Warning to any reader of contemporary poetry.  But, I am also going to make a quick plug for Cave Wall, one of the best journals being published today. 


1 Comment »

  1. Hurrah! I love this book. And Rhett. And Cave Wall! Wonderful review, Karen!

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