Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fast Love My Hair: a review of Larissa Shmailo's chapbook, A Cure for Suicide

Larissa Shmailo is poet who comes with warning labels, not about her—the warnings are those she issues.  Warnings about this sorry, greedy world of ours.  In the spirit of a quick-kill, Shmailo chooses directness over metaphor. 

“In the angry material world,” she warns in her poem “Scarcity,” midway through A Cure for Suicide, “There are men who are not/Men.”    

Whose imaginations never rise           
Whose imaginations squat           
Upon the positions of power.
That’s a reliable insight.  The cause of so much pain and destruction is an inability of the powerful to use their imaginations to enjoy each spark of life.  The short, layered lines of the poem serve as list and indictment.

Shamilo peers into America’s windows. “I have told you before, here at the doorway of a thousand /Unhappy homes…”  she writes in “Mapping.”  The poem begins with a wayward pigeon, “Like an addict in the morning’s trafficked street,” moves on to urban loneliness, and, by addressing the reader, envisions an escape route for anyone who cares to join the poet.  Two stanzas.  A way out. 

In the reality of her poem, “Abortion Hallucination,” there are snakes, in cars.
  “I didn’t want to fuck them twice.”  In this same reality there is triumph in later lines: “and the Nile gives up its life to me”

animals carnivorous and calm   
come home to me
two by two.
The poet as healer and enchantress, a poet who could be creating poetic incantation around a fire.  There is that witchy woman aspect to some of these poems.

Founder of the No-Net World, a loose web-linked consortium of spoken-word poets (, Shmailo brings the immediate drama of delivered lines to her work.
  I’ve seen her read and hear her sometimes rhythmic, sometimes telegraphed lines, in many of the poems, including “Skin.”

My tongue is bruised           
My nude is creaky           
Like a cabbage I sit and wait for you           
I stutter like an old goat           
Take me           
The fast love of my hair.
I’m up for that, for someone to know the fast love of my hair.  Shmailo may proclaim, in her poem “Scarcity,” that “Not all of you are wanted,” and she may offer lamentations, over and over in these poems, for those whose lives are little more than loose ends overlooked by HMOs and court systems.  

But Larissa Shmailo reveals that anger and lamentation are only
among the tools of her poet’s arsenal.  She also has a desire to make a real contact with other real human beings.  She needs to know us.  From “Personal”:  “what protest resists you/what neural net fires you/which siren desires you.”  She does not abandon.  Through this chapbook, which stands ready to serve as a companion through several cups of coffee, she insinuates herself into the reader’s life. 

47 pages, $7, Červená Barva Press  (

No comments:

Post a Comment