Skip to main content

Susan Tepper's Confess, reviewed by Rusty Barnes

Susan Tepper
 21 pages
Cervena Barva Press

Susan Tepper's Confess is a small intimate gathering of reflective poems from Cervena Barva Press published in 2020. One of the many problems with collecting a group of poems is that you have to decide if you want a book with some unity, not a miscellany. Miscellanies are all right, certainly, and they comprise most books of poetry printed today, but you want another unifying factor. The title CONFESS  lends itself to the illusion of forward momentum. What is the narrator confessing, and to what end?

"I come to you broken/have been trying to say/all that is not the way/it shows on the surface," the narrator says opening the first poem. They follow this statement up with a nostalgic description of an old photo as an illustration of exactly how broken they are, with the placid surfaces of the photo's subjects--Victorian women--undermined by the fact that the narrator has baldly told us they're broken to begin with. And the questions begin: broken by what? An interesting enigmatic opening move.

Many of these poems move by quickly--they're generally short--yet that consistency of mood prevails as show in this masterful short piece midway through:

Part & Parcel

Close the shutters
Allow darkness to rip
Your eyes in tide pools.

Two suitcases, side by sided,
Have yet to be unpacked.

Excuses, elaborations
Does this mean we won't stay long?

You're flattened by so many roads
I am stung and run over.

Two suitcases: it's been written
Part & Parcel by your own hand.

The minimal punctuation allows the poem to be read at a sort of angry breakneck speed, which fits it well.. While in most cases, I'd like the poet to direct my attention more, the deft use of impactful  verbs throughout rip and flatten a reader as well as speed up the poem. The art of the short line in evidence here is commendable as well.

Finally I'd like to talk about the larger question of the poem, what the narrator is confessing, and to what end. We often think of confession as something with a religious sense, with the end result being forgiveness for our sins. Or the more broadly confessional scene of the dark night wherein we confess our deepest secrets to the ones we love in the hope of gaining mutual understanding.  Or, the professional  confines of the purely therapeutic confession, where the box of antiseptic tissues is always available for emotional leavings, or even, in these Covid-19 times, the group therapy confessional of the, God help us, Zoom conference. What is Tepper's narrator confessing? My guess is a combination of these things. The poems don't strive for meaning but rather gather round and create an overarching theme: mortality. Which is what all poems come down to anyway.


Popular posts from this blog

Ed Dorn's # 22 From Twenty-four Love Poems

                                               from Jacket The strengthy message here in #22 of 24 Love Songs can be summed up in two lines: ['There is/no sense to beauty. . .' and '. . .How/ the world is shit/ and I mean all of it] What I also like about this brief poem is the interplay between the title of the book and the subject of the poems (love/anti-love (which is not hate)): it's all a mass of contradictions, like love. And I have to say that the shorter poems of the Love Songs and the last book he wrote before dying (Chemo Sábe) seem to me much better and more memorable than the Slinger/Gunslinger poems. These (generally) later poems probably attempt less stylistically, but are more sure-handed, hacked from a soap bar, maybe. Easy to use, but disappear after use. In any case, Dorn is well worth the reading and re-reading, for me, though he'll never become one of my favorites. And doesn't every poet want that, dead or alive? ;-) #22 The agony

Corey Mesler

  I think of you tonight, my Beats I think of you tonight, my Beats, and I am grateful.  I walked the narrow lanes of Academia and never felt at home. There were men and women in the flowerbeds, their heads full of theorems and poems. There were teachers who could lift their own weight in prose.  I was lonely. I was too loose.  I was a lad from the faraway country of Smarting. But I had you as so many before me. I had you and I knew secret things. I could count on you like a percussion. And now I want to say: I love you.  If not for you, what? I want to say. If Allen Ginsberg did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.  COREY MESLER has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South . He has published over 25 books of fiction and poetry. His newest novel, The Diminishment of Charlie Cain , is from Livingston Press. He also wrote the screenplay for We Go On , which won The Me

David Oliver Cranmer

Not Just Another Playlist Often, I sit in my swivel chair looking out the window, while jazz, country, or rock music plays. This pleasure goes on for many hours a mystic trance of sorts streaming—the glue maintaining my soul. I turn the best songs into playlists (once we called them mix tapes) puzzling over the perfect order. Does Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World” kick off my latest list or make it the big soulful closer? And does “Mack the Knife” go higher in the set than “Summertime?” That’s an Ella Fitzgerald duet! “Foolishness? No, it’s not” whether you are climbing a tree to count all the leaves or tapping to beats. These are the joys that bring inner peace and balance (to a cold universe) lifting spirits skyward. David Oliver Cranmer ’s poems, short stories, articles, and essays have appeared in publications such as Punk Noir Magazine , The Five-Two: Crime Poetry Weekly , Needle: A Magazine of Noir , LitReactor , Macmillan’s Criminal Element , and