She Was Found Treading Water Deep Out in the Ocean, by Lyn Lifshin


This cannot be an objective review because I adore Lyn Lifshin. She is every bit as potent a poet as was Charles Bukowski, every bit as effective as Jack Kerouac: easily as moving as Gordon Lightfoot. She is a magnifying glass. Reading her poems makes things larger and more clear. And if held just so, she can start a flame because the light shining through her is intensified. She is original. Who else could connect the Unabomber and a 500 year old Inca Ice Maiden (pages 3 and 4). In the poem “I Survived” on page 17, she paints a terrifying picture, a newborn baby in Auschwitz is to be drowned in boiling water. She must have really loved that DJ she causes to be resurrected in “If this was a Movie We could Re-Run The Film” page 21, a very lucky man. She is so tender in her depiction of her mother in “your mother has too much fight to be anywhere near death.” Not all mothers are so honored in death but Lyn Lifshin does honor hers. It can almost make you weep. Will my daughter so love me when I go? (Her mother is the subject of many of her poems.) I sometimes wonder…why does Lyn Lifshin write? I don’t think she has a choice. She was born a poet and once she realized that, she determined to purify and intensify her expression. I love poets. I know many and I love poetry. Lyn Lifshin is poetry. I just wish I could hear her sing in the shower, because the way she puts her words together is so beautiful. See? not objective

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Review by Michael Kriesel

With 120+ books and chapbooks to her credit, much of Lyn Lifshin’s enormous output consists of throw-away poems, dashed off like automatic writing.

But there’s another Lifshin, one who fleshes out a poem, develops it, revises. I’ve seen her do this a few times in Plainsongs magazine, most notably the arresting “The Unabomber writes to the ice maiden mummy,” which is happily included in her latest chapbook, published by Platonic 3way Press.

With just two exceptions, the poems in this collection are well-developed, possessing craftsmanship enough to draw the reader into Lifshin’s worlds, as in the title piece: “there wasn’t a boat or a car in sight. / ‘In translation,’ she said, becoming / a water being . . . / . . . ‘took her for observations,’ the / Coast Guard said ‘but a strong / swimmer,’ her long hair dripped / in the squad car. Under the towel, / her skin flakes, like scales . . . / . . . she remembers floating / in the lake of her mother’s belly, / thirsty . . . / . . . she will say what / she has to, already sees herself / camoflauged in thick eel grass and / seaweed, eluding the rest of the men / who want to enslave and possess her.”

Topics include aging, a horse famous for losing races, Barbie, childhood, Auschwitz, and two journalism poems, where Lifshin takes a news story and tells it as a poem. One of these is entitled “White Cliffs of Dover Becomes Prime Suicide Site.” The other one recounts the life and times of a woman in New York City who fit women for bras for more than seventy years. Many of the poems deal with Lifshin’s relationship with her mother.

This is the first chapbook in Platonic 3way Press’ “Evil Genius Chapbook Series,” and it’s a winner. They also recently launched a zine, Fight These Bastards. The first issue’s in the same league as Nerve Cowboy, and will hopefully help fill the void left by Chiron Review’s demise.

32pp; chapbook; Platonic 3way Press, PO Box 844, Warsaw, IN 46581. $5.