by L.M. Rivera
ISBN 1632430541, 9781632430540
Review by Emily Vogel
L.M. Rivera’s new collection of poetry, “The Drunkards” is first of all predicated upon and associated with numerous notions and allusions of a theological, philosophical, and obscurely literary nature. The poems in this collection exclusively derive from vast traditions, also including topics relevant to myth and the supernatural. What I am most interested in with regard to the breadth of these poems are the subtle references to what seems to be a muse or lover, reminiscent of Shakespeare’s dark lady. She seems to be housed within the elaborate language which sings with an erudite voice throughout, almost as though a reference point which inspires so much of the manner in which this collection traverses.
In the first section (The Post-Nietzchean Prelude) he writes “but how will she write when the dark comes near/when THE ABSOLUTE BOOK reads itself blind…” and proceeds to reference the book of Exodus, replete with speculations and ponderances related further to “the day of judgement” and the book of Revelation.
This collection also reveals itself in a sort of meta-literary manner, (the writing ABOUT the writing) as the dark lady is poised as though by a dim lamp. Perhaps Rivera is the dark lady himself? Or an aspect of the writer; the anima within? The section “the Silver Legacy with P.” is of interest to me in that regard, as he writes “If I existed entirely/in the book, I would inaugurate myself/by obliterating the domestic/order.” This statement also exposes the speaker as sympathetic to feminism…and also oriented toward certain ideas related to Judith Butler’s writing, whom he epigraphs later on in the collection.
In the poem “For Me to Live or Die” he writes “What is it about the night?” And goes on to write later in the poem: “Stay away from the window/with no curtains. I know you’re terrified.” If he IS speaking to some referential dark lady, she is as fragile as the ideas upon which he expounds. The settings of these poems seem to occur pervasively during the dark hours, where random images seem to cohere as an entire ambiance. The ideas are also veiled behind an opaque scrim, which provokes the intellect. Of course, this book would have fallen short had the ideas been communicated transparently. All throughout this book, “night” seems to be considered as a centrifugal hole. The intentions by which this collection operates is why it succeeds as a tightly woven and poeticized philosophy.
In the poem “Getting Sick,” he writes “I read/from THE BOOK OF MANIACS frequently/and see her as a child in a gothic/mirror, vexed by avoided salvation.” Here again, there is a lover, who seems to be housed by the dim light of her own solitary world. Ideas of condemnation and redemption again expose the theology of these scintillating poems.
In “The Book of Devotional Cinema and Repetition in The Blank,” there is a dialogue with whomever remains to be the referential “other” in a tradition reminiscent of Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” calls and responses which lead to existential despair. Toward the end of the book, in “A Death Prayer Coda” he writes “How a desert returns, even if dead.” I see this culmination as though death occurs, but which implies a “furthering,” something ongoing like a pervasive wasteland which seems to subsist. In this, I see the prevailing atmosphere of these poems to be oriented toward a sort of longing for redemption and/or salvation. This idea seems to drive this very compact collection. I am more than impressed at how elegantly this collection moves. As the narratives are closely linked and move so gracefully throughout, the reader would want to read this one cover to cover, and would emerge from the world of it more enlightened, and certainly as impressed as I was when I read this very riveting work. Highly recommended for the inquisitive reader—even the casual one, who has even an inkling of curiosity.
About the author:
Emily Vogel is poetry editor of Ragazine.CC. She is the recipient of the Academy of American Poets College Prize, 2008, has been once nominated for a Pushcart, and once nominated for the AWP award in creative non-fiction (2009). She finds solace at home with her husband, the poet and essayist, Joe Weil, their daughter, Clare, and son Gabriel. email: You can read more about her here: https://www.ragazine.cc/about-us.