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Mar312019

Book Review: Willingly

WillinglyMarc FrazierAdelaide Books, January 27, 2019, Trade Paperback, 112 pages.

Reviewed by David Steven Rappoport.

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that “to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful.” Willingly, Marc Frazier’s new collection of poems, is both true and beautiful.

In Frazier’s words,Willingly explores “the ramifications of one man’s search for identity within and without the bonds of a relationship,” and “the story of one LGBTQ+ individual.” Within his story, Frazier writes in many styles and focuses on many themes. 

Some poems address the power of nature and our relationship to it, as in “Awakening”:

            parable of the

            honeycomb:

                                                accretion of labor,

                                                queen at the height

            of her powers,

            pulse of the

                                                hive audible, warm

                                                aura of affirmation . . .

Much of the collection speaks of aspects of love—being in it, being out of it, looking for it, or in “Then,” just sex:

Weren’t we young together?

Didn’t we grope in beer-soaked rooms,

patios, parking lots . . .

Didn’t we want it 

more than anything?

Some of the poems are playful. For example,Sergio” begins with a reminder of the joy of romantic revenge:

I’m seeing a man who is wealthy and traveled

and everything

You are not . . .

Perhaps Frazier’s most compelling poems are the most personal ones. In this mode, Frazier reminds us of the confessional poets, particularly Anne Sexton. 

Many of these poems—such as “Synopsis,” a succinct life history that recalls Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish”—are intense.

            mother threatens to kill me

                        during the seventh month of my life

            great uncle John and my dad

                        haul her screaming and clawing

            into the car for the trip to Mercyville . . .

Many are quieter, such as the subtle and moving title poem, “Willingly,” a reflection on Frazier’s Illinois childhood:

The swish of corn stalks lulls as night

Crawlers slither in a wet dawn.

We pilfer sugar cubes for the mare sniffling over the fence,

 

Still, drawn in by her heavy, chestnut eyes – her elegance.

We capture what earth yields: beetles,

Ants, garter snakes, our futures . . .

Overall, Frazier might be described as a writer whose approach is as unornamented as a Midwestern corn field. Though his language is straightforward, it is always visceral.

In Willingly, Frazier manages to create a diverse collection that is as restrained as it is potent.

 

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