Poetry you need to read: 'Bright Brave Phenomena' by Amanda Nadelberg

Amanda Nadelberg’s poems in her new collection Bright Brave Phenomena (Coffee House Press) are jumping, funny, romantic, and frequently lyrical. She repeats words within a stanza, looping back to what you can later recognize as a theme, but which in the immediate reading is almost pure music:

Some things

will always look

like this. We had

a lovely time and

a deep chair. Ugly

speaks to Lovely

and somewhere

else people make

terrible histories.

Intolerable love.

The repetition of the word “love” there, in a section from the poem “Regardless Of Rivers, Aggression In The Driveway Is Unlovely,” captures the very obsessiveness of love itself.

Nadelberg grabs hold of unlikely inspirations. “Powerage,” a lengthy poem dedicated to the band AC/DC, doesn’t try to mimic the aggressiveness or gleeful foolishness of AC/DC music, but you can feel that kind of music’s surge in the poet’s description of young, heedless lives:

The young and the innocent

learn to tolerate themselves.

cheap beer, pretty teeth.

A good dancer, the shiniest map

there was that night. We get

in and out of our cars like

flashlights. I race to the phone

when it rings. Sick of leaving

all you a—holes messages, I

throw my red flags down.

This right here is a place to lie down.

“We get/in and out of our cars like/flashlights” – what a wonderfully crammed, potent image. If it sounds to you, even from these brief excerpts, as though Nadelberg creates poetry that coheres from bits and pieces of everyday phrases, disparate subjects and objects, you’ve hit upon part of her method here. She’s said that many of the poems in Bright Brave Phenomena were constructed piecemeal, from a collection of sentences and “little lines and scraps” she tossed into a shoebox for a while, and then started using them to jump-start poems when it came time to compose. The result could have been Dadaist gibberish; but in this book, the method has yielded many gleaming, piercing poems that cut to the heart of doubt, confusion, and happiness.

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