August Marrow Review: Jane Eaton Hamilton’s Love Will Burst Into a Thousand Shapes (Caitlin Press, 2015)

matadorHamilton’s love will burst into a thousand shapes is a book of poems of both cohesion and fragmentation, fraught by all the ranges of adoration and the dissolving of bonds. Constructed in four sections, the first two of which deal with artistic/ekphrastic homages and more overtly politicized pieces and the latter attending to the personal permutations of relationships, from mothering, to the body, sex and divorce, this collection is energized by ineffable desires and occasionally flawed with awkward parenthetical phrasings, overly loose forms, or elisions of punctuation, though such discombobulations also seemed suited for the subject matter.

The pieces on artists are perhaps the least compelling poems, possibly because their impetus feels too familiar, especially the Van Gogh and Kahlo ones, though this could stem from my individual saturation in the work of these painters. The first truly potent poem, to my mind, is “Christmas Tree in January,” in the second part, with its lengthier cadences, initial rhymes (dripping/yipping) and consistency of ¬†dichotomous images (dark/light, fragility/endurance). Hamilton shines in poems that sketch a narrative scene, often of terrible tenderness or unspoken arousal between girls or women, as in the powerful “Wendy M,” where impossible longing is contained in the rural tension of evocative lines like: ” He hasped across hoof until a half moon/fell to the barn floor….Pheasants chucked along roof beams/Heat reddened our faces.” Words such as farrier, pritchel, whickered hold the emotion that I at times wished Hamilton would trust more (the words not the emotion), instead of letting some pieces trail off or conclude with too-explanatory statements like this poem’s “Blood sisters”, information already evidenced in the preceding images.

Other potent poems include the moving three part “Home Birth,” the sharp honesties of “Sex” and “Scan,” the tragic travelogue “Paris” and “Hands” (textured, as in “Transplant” with Latinate medical diction – palmar, synovial, hamate – amid Anglo Saxon simplicity – lover, heat, earth). “Sleepless” too is literally a tour de force of fisting, clits and all the luscious adjectival intimacies of what Hamilton calls “Exorcist sex,” the hot eroticism humanized by such slangy ejaculations as Gads and gobsmacked and the colloquial pacing: “Wait, pause here…but, but – everything – fuck.” Poems are only marred by a smattering of cliches – ruby blood drop, dancer’s delight, storm brewing, pulled her close – or when they aim to tackle massive moments like war or the Columbine shootings – even attempted through smaller “punctums” they still feel insufficiently entered.

But this book (deliciously designed with a lushly haunting cover, albeit a bit riddled with blurbs), is mostly a blow you away explosion of fleshly longing, from fulfillment to thwarting, tinged with the styles of Diana Brebner, Chase Twichell and Adrienne Rich. Hamilton burns in this realm of the unabashed heart, teaching this reader much about being a fully somatized woman.

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