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Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room
by Betsy Wheeler
The National Poetry Review Press, $17.95 (paper)
The poems in Betsy Wheeler’s debut collection confidently crash a lyrical vibe—where we might find a “rain cloud suspended from the ceiling by only the / thrumming of a piano chord”—into a harsher reality, one where the “rain, cold, hangs longer on the branches. / Summer rain is sluttier.” It is this tension between the world as it is and what it sometimes seems like, and ultimately might be, that compels this accomplished book forward. About a third of the poems are what Wheeler calls “Non-Sonnets.” Of these, “Non-Sonnet for Telling You Everything,” “Non-Sonnet for Innumerable Suns,” and “Non-Sonnet for the You Behind the Bedroom Door” in particular demonstrate Wheeler’s ease in melding the formal and the colloquial. In “Non-Sonnet for the Phrase ‘But I Believe,’” she writes: “To the waitress I said wondermeat, meaning / wonderment, meaning I wonder where you are, / and how you spend your wooden nickels.” While the book’s lyricism often verges on the surreal and dream-like (perhaps unsurprisingly, given the title) a sense of longing and emotional clarity keeps the poems from veering off into the antic. Loud Dreaming in a Quiet Room is a book of carefully modulated, eager, and inventive love poems, poems that have no intention of giving in or up: “Like how sexy. Like when I say you look good / in white linen, I mean sheets. Like I’d like to / rob your booty bank. Like how I’d take my / winnings to the grave.”
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