Reviewed by Voodoo Lynn
The Place of Broken Things is a new book of poetry penned by Linda Addison and Alessandro Manzetti. They take the reader through a fascinating labyrinth of pain, remembrance, and longing. Though the book may be short, the verses are filled with haunting imagery that burrows into your very being. It carries you to places like Angkor Wat, Provence, and imaginary Harlem. With each poem, you are transported to a new broken place where you learn about the suffering of each subject. The use of language is flowing and free, nothing about it seems forced. I even learned a couple of new words.
Throughout the book, the contrast between a cold and harsh modern reality and the deep, rich inner life of the characters is enthralling. Perhaps it’s not escapism so much as a philosophical lease on life. There are several references to religion. One of my favorites is in the poem “Cathedral Lane.” In it we are taken through the morning life of a homeless Native American in a large city. Many of the poems in this collection are set in busy cities which we tend to think of as dark and grey but here they take on a new and colorful life through the character’s eyes. The homeless man is Navajo as the poem makes reference to a sun deity-Nandzgai and a night deity-Chahalgel. Although the man is destitute, he still manages to see the world in a beautiful, serene and timeless way, which is in stark contrast to his cacophonous and grimy surroundings. My favorite line is:
“Somewhere in the distance the sun returns, sliding up from the horizon, as night retires he opens his eyes to greet the passing of Now from one sky god to another…”
One poem that stuck with me is ‘Animation’. It caught my attention right away because of the format of the poem itself was visually interesting. The poem’s setting is in an office and talks about, what reminds me of a Borg invasion in the Star Trek universe. The office is thrown into chaos as all the metal and wiring coalesces into a humanoid being saying “join us.” What follows is a futile attempt to escape, ultimately leading to assimilation. When the poem first starts out, it formed into two moderately sized diamond shapes. Then, as the escape ensues, the sentences expand outward, and then become smaller, like a triangle. It does it again. And then, finally, as the worker is captured and is being taken over by the metal and wires, the sentences become smaller until it ends in one word, “join.” Because of the physical shape of the poem, I felt like I was experiencing what the office worker felt. The actual description of the process of assimilation is succinct and very effective. The end description will always stay with me:
“Flesh body knitted with steel, eyes empty, weeping blood floats in front of me. Wire caresses my face, enters my ears, metal loops bind me to the walls…”
It just sends shivers down my spine. With the current rise in A.I. and predictive programming technology in our everyday life, this poem takes on a whole life of its own and forces the reader to wonder, what if?
The last poem I want to talk about is “She, on Sunday.” This one fascinates me. It talks about an older woman remembering her past, and her obsessive need to repeat certain memories and how she’s become trapped in a small room, perhaps in real life, perhaps in her own mind- I’m not sure. This poem is tied together by the author’s musical references throughout. They mention Yann Tiersen, I know this name. As it turns out he was responsible for the soundtrack to the whimsical film Amelie, one of my favorites. If you are not familiar with the film, there are a few piano instrumentals in it that express a deep sense of longing, which is a perfect companion to the poem. I strongly encourage you to YouTube this music and listen to it while reading to get the full effect. There is a strong connection to the character’s obsession with her memories and her obsession with certain music. The imagery throughout the poem is amazing. You get to see something so unassuming and ubiquitous and have it transformed into a surreal Escher-esque image. For example, take someone playing the piano and have it described to you as follows:
“…moving cold fingers, pressing blurry fingerprints on the ivory keys, bleeding curves, lines and black and white mazes which vibrate following the coils of a music theme…”
This poem also has one of my favorite lines in it:
“…like women’s scents in the days when the incense of spring begins to burn…”
The Place of Broken Things is filled with such magnificent imagery and sadness, it is sure to satisfy many. There are over thirty selections to choose from, some written individually, and others are a collaborative effort between the poets- all are worth checking out. If you are in the mood to indulge yourself in darkness and pain, then I suggest reading this book and know that you are not alone. The Buddha said, “all life is suffering.” As it turns out in the end, that is something we all have in common.