Orexia (Review Series)

Orexia (Review Series)

Each month I review a new book for ImageUpdate, which is put out by the fabulous people at IMAGE Journal. Here’s the latest.

51Kjj4ZSfzL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Poems as Temples
Orexia by Lisa Russ Spaar

Temples exist, possibly, not because the Holy is holier there, but to make us awake to it. A singular hour—one with a lover who is going on a journey, for example—draws up all our attention. Maybe this is why “Temple” and “Hour” appear so often in the poem titles of Lisa Russ Spaar’s new collection Orexia, a word which means “desire, appetite.” Discrete spaces, including bodies, are important in these poems. In “Temple Tomb,” a reimagining of John 20:11-18, the speaker is shocked by the physicality of the man who appears to her: “What did your body ever have / to do with me?” In “Temple Dictionary,” Spaar does heavy work in a space no bigger than a violet pressed in a dictionary: “genital lapels held in tiny, kama sutric / kimono foldings, obeisant // to the word “thesis,” a setting down. Down. / Forgive me, O once-alive. // I believed to press love / would be to make love.” Several poems deal with loss, lust, celibacy, desire in late middle age. All is examined as if sacred. Spaar chooses words that feel—in the best way—like relics just dug up: mottled, pungent. In “Temple Sillage,” a poem that addresses “scent or perfume [that] lingers after its source has passed,” she writes of “notes holocaustic / in attar of vetiver, citron, histamine. // Clary sage, I too love / the swallowed creature weight, // prone to dream a dram- / lapped font. The wake of him.” Ampersands fleck these poems, making odd and lovely couplings: “salve & knife,” “bowl of oil & blue heap of scraped shells,” the planet Venus as a “lone & salt-stung earring.” And at the risk of reading too much into an ampersand, the mark feels perfect for a book in which lovers sometimes pair but never disappear into each other. In the book’s final lines, Spaar is still marking off spaces for us to come awake in: “Annul the self? I float it, / a day lily in my wine. Oblivion? // I love our lives, / keeping me from it.”
—Reviewed by Jen Hinst-White

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