Most reviews I write are intended to say what I think a book is attempting to do, and how well I believe the books does it. Only a fraction of the reviews I write are about telling people that they are really missing out on something special if they donâ€™t find a way to read a particular book. This review of Sommer Browningâ€™s Either Way Iâ€™m Celebrating is part of that small fraction, a persuasive micro-essay about how you are missing out on something beautiful and new if you donâ€™t read this book.
Either Way Iâ€™m Celebrating is roughly a three-part split consisting of one-third straight poetry collection, one-third a series of poems called â€˜Vale Tudoâ€™, and one-third another series called â€˜To the Housesitterâ€™. Iâ€™d be lying if I said all parts are equal here, as I believe the first third of the book, the straight poetry collection, is a little underwhelming in terms of power and grab, but in the end, this first third seems meant as more of a set up for the other portions of the book, a way to get us feeling Browningâ€™s overall style and playfulness â€“ and when we do reach the latter portions of the book, the two chapbook-length series of poems, wow, Browningâ€™s potent writing is beautifully showcased in all its glory and wonder:
from â€˜Vale Tudoâ€™:
Leave the keys in the room, next to the coffee maker no one uses.
A plate of eggs, zigzags of bacon, and slices of toast. A Modern wrote about this in his noblest tractatus: breakfast must be analyzed on the basis of reason, not faith. Hush, the sugarâ€™s shaking. Hush, her wrist clicks as she pours. Hush, that your heart was open as this cup.
[ ... ]
He saw it alone, first. He sees it again with me.
You are disguised as a 28-year-old theater manager. You slip on your wooden farm fencing disguised as khaki pants and reach for my boat disguised as a hand. You say industrial parks disguised as the words Letâ€™s go. And we leave our As I Lay Dying disguised as a hotel room. Alcoholics Anonymous disguised as outside, the telephone disguised as air is cool. We sigh disguised as kissing disguised as mackerel disguised as breathing disguised as dust. We checkout.
Both â€˜Vale Tudoâ€™ and â€˜To the Housesitterâ€™ are stuffed with playful, rhythmic writing that is something like a creepy center covered in clever language-play â€“ both pieces have an air of the distraught (perpetuated by a sparse use of language) with the benevolent suspense of the greatest dry-wit (punctuated by the inclusion of Browningâ€™s comics, which are both philosophical and charming).
from â€˜To the Housesitterâ€™:
is shaped like candy. And the candy inside its dribbling refrigerator is shaped like mouths. And the house. It sits on a hill shaped like a hill. Itâ€™s shaping, its flat parts peak, its inside furrows, then opens to grab you. Then, you are shaped. Now, you are then shaped, and your then shape punctures the house. Something nuclear. Something west-end and beachy. You are still at work. Like the men.
[ ... ]
Outside the House
is an earthmover you call a backhoe. It is a scar; you call it cicatrix. Excessive and injurious, once you leave the house. What swirls at your ankles sticks. All the scraps in your pocket are yours. Youâ€™ll be known by the way your folded hands unfold. Sun gathers in them like a mob.
This is genuinely a book that I donâ€™t want people to miss. Ask your library to order a copy. Ask your bookstore to bring one in. Request a review copy. Ask the publisher to make it available for your Kindle or your Nook. I donâ€™t care what you do, but find a way to read this, it is so absolutely fantastically brilliantly worth it.
Either Way Iâ€™m Celebrating is available from Birds, LLC.
J. A. Tyler is the author of A Shiny, Unused Heart and A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious Press.