Squeezers: a Review

Heat courses through this chapbook from the very first poem, "Going to Hell."

...All of us
are headed for the crawfish pot,
hot as a seatbelt in summertime."

Having burned many a childhood love handle on the silvery backseat buckles of our '75 Dodge dart, I relate to that metaphor, as I do to most of the poems in Alison Pelegrin's latest chapbook, the aforementioned Squeezers.

As I mentioned six weeks ago when I posted another of her poems, I feel like I've been chasing Alison for a long time, but where I moved away from "calling on / Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for little things / like blue doubloons and Zulu coconuts," she moved back and is now an English teacher at our alma mater. And when you read her poems, you can't help but understand why.

Her voice is strong and sure, tone-perfect and redolent with the sounds I grew up with, and emotionally powerful. From "Letter of a Thousand Days"
Lake Pontchartrain, Tchefuncte, Bogue Falaya--
I should be more like Li Po--half-drunk, squandering
the night's best verses to the Yangtze just because.
Dad--why can't I say that when I think of you
I also think of Time-Life Books--Mysteries of the Unknown,
their commercials with a knack for interrupting
mid-brawl our weekend ritual, the Old West
Movie Marathon. I know how you remember how
the TV screen blinked back and then revealed
a teapot squealing while twins two states apart
each felt the burn. No such mind's eye sparked for you.
I was at a Christmas Party, and as I time it, you were
Crossing the Great Waters while I listened to Charmaine Neville
do Jingle Bells, Satchmo-style.

She balances her narrative with incredibly poignant metaphor, and I don't care if most people will mispronounce Tchefuncte (cha-funk-ta) or Bogue Falaya (bow-ga fuh-lie--uh)--those are the sounds of my home and childhood as well, and I think they're universal in the sense that even if you're not from here, there's something about that level of detail that resonates with your own personal experience. You can make it fit your own life if you choose.

One of the advantages of having a teaching job is that you can introduce your students to new writers. I'm teaching two Interpretations of Poetry classes next term, and we'll be reading this book, among others. I'm sure Alison won't mind the few book sales that come out of it.

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