Sunday, August 8, 2021

A Day in Boyland

Over time, I've been reading all the work of Jessy Randall, and I'm glad to be reading her very first collection, A Day in Boyland (Ghost Road Press, 2007, with that wonderful cover design by Sonya Unrein) this August for the Sealey Challenge. This book has been patiently waiting in its wrapper on my poetry book stack till now!

First time through, I read with sheer joy, taking nary a note--nary a written note but plenty of mental notes and feathery notes on my heart. Next time through, I paused in the midst of my laughter or awe to take small notes--these are mostly short poems--so I could tell you some things about why I love this book and Jessy Randall. It's all the feeling, I guess, and the wild, sweet imagination! Plus the humor. It's the childlike acceptance and honest tears. Yes, because I've laughed in delight at so much of her later work, this couplet from "Phone Words" surprised me: "I thought I wanted people to be sad / like me, but now I don't like that either." Sad like her. I wouldn't have guessed...but, yes, of course, it makes perfect sense now that I've read A Day in Boyland

There are love poems and heartbreak poems, silly poems and sad poems, and back-to-love poems. There's a narrative arc, from friends who are boys in childhood, to actual boyfriends (and a boyfriend parade!), to a crucial first love (the one you lose, alas), to finding your true love, to maternal love. It's glorious!--all the more glorious because of the suffering along the way. Gently, humorously shared suffering.

Example of her wild imagination, the first stanza of "Heart":

     I wrote a poem about your heart
     but it was really my heart.
     All the words were backwards
     and covered in spinach.

But another example could be "Three Martians Learn to Make Marshmallows," a celebration and send-up of science fiction. Or "The Couch," a wonderful what-if? poem:

     Imagine if all the couches you ever sat on
     were gathered together into one enormous room.
     And what if the people who sat there with you
     were also brought in?

There was loneliness in yesterday's book, Night Angler, by Geffrey Davis, of a different kind, and here in Jessy Randall's A Day in Boyland there is "The Zone of Loneliness," her own kind--though in it I find books we have in common, Einstein's Dreams and Clan of the Cave Bear, so waves of my own lonely loneliness of youth wash over me, along with the awareness that it is different now, and I've always liked solitude and often said, "I am never lonely." (But someday I may be.)

I liked reading the wedding poems! (My daughter is getting married next May!) I remembered "The Great Disappointment of the Honeymoon," a secret I'll leave you to discover on your own. And I can't wait till her next book comes out. Mathematics for Ladies: Poems on Women in Science, forthcoming in 2022! Find links to some of these poems here!

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