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Crush by Richard Siken
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Do you remember Prometheus?

That thief of fire who was bound to the rock in order for the vulture to pick at his liver, every day? That liver grew back every day for the sole purpose of being eaten again. The liver wasn’t helpful to Prometheus, it was only a source of pain. Can you imagine what it would be like to know that your liver would be eaten from your body day after day? There must be an immense sense of dread, knowing that what’s going to happen today is inevitable.

This is not a book about Prometheus, but it may as well be. (We are playing with fire here, after all. At least, love can feel like a fire.) Every poem in this book is essentially the same. The poems are strong individually, but read together, they build something stronger. Images are repeated again and again with only slight variations (driving on the road, running out onto the road, lying in the road). The poems can’t help but to return to the same thing again. It’s painful, but it’s a delicious pain, glorious in love and lust and in being alternately strong and vulnerable.

What the book doesn’t tell you directly is that Richard Siken was partially influenced by the death of his boyfriend. I don’t want to make any assumptions here about how that has influenced the content, but I will say that the poems read like a lover trying to move on from something that is, well, crushing. Moving on is not something you can just will yourself to do.

In the end, the speaker believes he has escaped the cycle: “We are all going forward. None of us are going back.” Maybe, maybe not. It may be that moving forward requires a lot of going round in circles. And we know where those circles are going to take us.

“We’ve been driving all night.
We’ve been driving a long time.
We want to stop. We can’t.”

But why would we want to stop? ( )
1 vote sighedtosleep | Sep 1, 2014 |
Siken’s Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out gets a reasonable amount of circulation in my circles, and it’s a good example of Siken’s pained humor. (“I can tell already you think I’m the dragon,
that would be so like me, but I’m not. I’m not the dragon…. but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
and getting stabbed to death.
Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.”). Siken writes about the body, about the desperate imposition of sexual desire, about danger always lurking, about the desire to die. Louise Glück’s introduction is perfect, unsurprisingly: “This is a book about panic…. [T]he speaker is never outside it long enough to differentiate panic from other states. In the world of Crush, panic is a synonym for being: in its delays, in its swerving and rushing syntac, its frantic lists and questions, it fends off time and loss.” There are a number of repeated images: bullets, blood, road trips, brothers, green-eyed lovers, and other obsessions of Americana. (“There’s a bottle of whiskey in the trunk of the Chevy and a dead man at our feet/staring up at us like we’re something interesting.This is where the evening/splits in half, Henry, love or death. Grab an end, pull hard, and make a wish.”) Highly recommended, even though I don’t know how to write about poetry. ( )
1 vote rivkat | Mar 24, 2014 |
There are few poets I've found with the narrative skill and stylised descriptions of this book. The pace is frantic, and unforgiving, the emotions portrayed brutal and violent and paced with a rhythm that does not let the reader go before the last stanza. Siken draws a fibre-fine line between love and the obession that goes with it, and I cannot recommend this enough. ( )
1 vote EnsignBlueshirt | Jun 11, 2011 |
I'm grateful for the half-star option. This book floored me, utterly, and I recommend it to all. ( )
  rmariem | Feb 10, 2010 |
My favorites:

Dirty Valentine
You Are Jeff
Straw House, Straw Dog
Wishbone ( )
  valerieloveland | Sep 16, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0300107897, Paperback)

Richard Siken’s Crush, selected as the 2004 winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize, is a powerful collection of poems driven by obsession and love. Siken writes with ferocity, and his reader hurtles unstoppably with him. His poetry is confessional, gay, savage, and charged with violent eroticism. In the world of American poetry, Siken's voice is striking.
In her introduction to the book, competition judge Louise Glück hails the “cumulative, driving, apocalyptic power, [and] purgatorial recklessness” of Siken’s poems. She notes, “Books of this kind dream big. . . . They restore to poetry that sense of crucial moment and crucial utterance which may indeed be the great genius of the form.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:17:51 -0400)

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Yale University Press

Two editions of this book were published by Yale University Press.

Editions: 0300107897, 0300107218

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