September Poetry Pick: How The Losers Love What’s Lost

Patrick Ryan Frank’s book, How the Losers Love What’s Lost, is a collection full of, well, losers.  But a reader shouldn’t enter  thinking that the characters in these poems are all wearing a big letter “L” on their foreheads.  Instead, How the Losers Love What’s Lost, which won the Four Way Books Intro Prize in Poetry, is a collection that explores the idea of loss in its many aches and forms.

I am often attracted to poetry books that are organized into some kind of narrative arc. Frank’s book, on the other hand, is a balance of narratives and lyrical poems.  Sometimes, we read the stories of seemingly lost souls.  For instance, in “The People in Those Places,” we are placed in the Beggar Moon Motel, where a businessman listens through thin walls to a hooker and a boy. In another poem, “Given a Gift Certificate to a Fortune Teller” a narrator explains a bleak encounter with a woman who says, “I had the saddest hands in town/my palms like movies made from Russian plays//bad lines, bad lines.” Yet, there are many poems with unknown narrators exploring more abstract feelings of loss such as the speaker in “Toward Nebraska and After” who gives directions about surving a barren landscape.

What really amazes me about this collection is the variety of speakers and the variety of explorations about loss.  In one poem, we may hear the story of a werewolf, in another poem we hear the prayer of a gambler.  Because I am currently struggling with the order of my own manuscript, I’m at awe with the ease of the order of this collection.

Frank is a new poet to me, and I’m glad that I caught up with his work on Justin Hamm’s blog when he posted a short note about this collection.  Like many other first book poets, I’m looking forward to Patrick Ryan Frank’s next collection.

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