ISSN 1551-8086
return to home search for a contributing writer

seach for poems by title

archive of previous issues submissions information mailing list online store links to other interesting sites contact us  
  November 2015
volume 12 number 2
  home   (archived)
Lynne Thompson
On Pablo Neruda
Carol Smallwood
Jendi Reiter's Bullies in Love
Allie Frazier
Alexis Fancher's How I Lost My Virginity and...
  mailing list
Carol Smallwood November 2015


Jendi Reiter's Bullies in Love

    I had the pleasure of reading the poetry collection, Swallow, so was looking forward to Ms. Reiter's newest poetry collection, Bullies in Love, the Winner of the Little Red Tree International Poetry Prize. Ms. Reiter isn't a stranger to awards as she's received: the Massachusetts Cultural Council Artists' Grant for Poetry, Betsy Collquitt Award for Poetry, James Anderbo Poetry Prize, as well as others in fiction.
    The fifty-three poems are pretty equally divided in four sections; the collection has an index of first lines and titles; biographical backgrounds of the photographer as well as the poet. Art photographer, Toni Pepe, teaches photography at Boston University.
    Ms. Reiter's free verse poetry is gutsy, bold, direct, and very contemporary but not devoid of humor which appears in the second poem, "I Wish I Were in Love Again":

    Where the sheriff,
    big-bellied as Cupid
    didn't see the evidence
    of the split rope, the double-smudged lipstick,
    the blacksnake-cold gun under the belt.

    And in "Possession"

    Rats shrink from the sound of crackling, like a teenage boy forced to read a nineteenth-century novel of manners.
    "What Dora Said to Agnes' ends with the memorable lines:

    When a man undresses a woman
    he is unfolding a letter
    he expected would be addressed to him,
    when he reads it whatever memories
    he brought to it he will take away again.
   vWhen a woman undresses a man
    she is promising to wash him,
    she is offering the hand that will close his eyes.

    Each new poetry collection is an exploration, a sharing with the poet, a trying to understand and enjoy what the poet says (and what they don't say) and how they craft it. Readers enter a realm the poet makes just the right words chosen after a long time of mulling, indecision, revision, finally a letting go of each poem with a mix of satisfaction and doubt.
    Trigger Warning: Pour Homme is a list of memories with famous perfumes; most have a reference to her mother until "she'd become allergic."
    Some of her lines demand to be read again and again to savor them at will such as those in, "Deep Sister":

    the spoon-eared hare,
    leaping from bush to vanish
    fast as a memory of God

    My favorite, "Inheriting a House Fire" is a stark summary of a family: father, mother, aunts, cousins, grandparents, that cuts to the bone and allows no pretension. The four stanzas are a remarkable assessment, one too penetrating to allow any tears of sentiment.
    The longest poem is the last one, "Split Ends" which is divided into six sections. The seven photographs question what our vision takes for granted "what we see; the poems question the ever present role of sex, probes comfortable personal assumptions, and our collective cultural fairy tales. The photographs and poetry work together well; the book is larger than the usual "6 x 9" collection most likely to accommodate the photographs.
    I recalled the word, fractal, after reading Bullies in Love: a term applied to a type of geometry that allowed us to get a better grasp of our natural world that isn't arranged in the straight lines of Euclidean geometry. Ms. Reiter's poems strive to give form through words to lives that follow irregular lines and are as complex as the never-ending patterns of fractals.

Bullies in Love, poems by Jendi Reiter; photography by Toni Pepe, Little Red Tree Publishing, 2015 7 x 0.3 x 10 inches paperback, 120 pp.

(previously published in Commonline Journal, June 2015)

copyright 2015 Carol Smallwood


Carol Smallwood

author's bio

    Carol Smallwood’s most recent poetry collection is In the Measuring (Shanti Arts, 2018). A recipient of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award, she’s founded, supports humane societies.