reviewed An Alien Here on the nibble blog:
“An Alien Here
by Leah Angstman
January 23, 2009
The first in the series (now numbering six) of Pocket Protector books from Propaganda Press, An Alien Here is a fantastic group of poems. The best feature of this series of tiny, matchbook sized collections is the convenient portability. I stuffed this on in my pocket on a trip to the beach, hardly knowing it was even there, until boredom began to set in and I longed for something to read.
And I was far from disappointed, thrilled in fact, because Angstman’s poetry is wonderfully honest, personal and so layered that one, two, even three reads later I’m still plumbing its depths. From poems like “riding bareback,” which is so sexually charged as to inflame feelings both erotic and embarrassing, as though in some moments you are a participant in the poem and others you are the voyeur:
the final breaths coming in
a small collapse on my chest
sucking his tummy in
trying not to touch his
or my sweat
he is warm
so fucking warm
To poems like “1926,” about her grandfather, which is a fantastic personal journey that gives such insight into Angstman’s life and genealogy, the reader feels she has given out the very pieces of herself.
what i remember of you
are the things a grandfather
would want his grandchild
just that there are not enough years
of musings to recall for me
when you died on my sixth christmas morning
my family didn’t tell us
we kids opened our presents
at the prospect of sharing them with you
at the hospital where
months had taken life from you
The poem covers so much, it is impossible to simply quote it and do its grandeur justice.
“1926” alone is worth far more than this book will cost you.
Angstman uses no capital letters in her writing [ ... ], and there is not a comma to be found anywhere in these poems, except in the occasional title, and yet the poems are written with such wondrous skill that the reader is never at loss as to her exact intentions.
From “the empty house,” a nuanced poem about a break up and how life goes on, changed, in the absence of a lover:
the rats are out
in the walls tonight
i hear them now that i don’t hear you
the quiet is a fogand later
creeping like a cancer
into my throat and ears
it is bare as a branch in boston
Angstman has a clear talent for weaving together beautiful words. She paces her rhythms perfectly and creates poems like deep, glistening pools you stumble across in the middle of a lonely wood, unable to resist the urge to dive right in and see how deep you can go on a single breath.
From “the trek to d-town”:
i’ll tell you what’s surreal
driving through spastic june
like snow in summer rainbow days
and speckled tori amos days
and robin eggs
broken at my feet
Generally, when I review a chapbook or magazine or other collection, I will read it through once or twice, write out a review and either send the book on to a fellow poet/reader or, to be honest, toss it in the recycle bin with the beer bottles and old copies of Sports Illustrated.
But not this little piece of genius. This one will be riding in my pocket for a long time to come and, NO, I will not let you borrow it. Get your own!”