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Teresa Cordova

Book Review

I Want Love So Great It Makes Nicholas Sparks Cream In His Pants

by on August 19, 2016

COVER18_Love_So_Great - Copy

I Want Love So Great It Makes Nicholas Sparks Cream In His Pants, by Calvero


A very large and ongoing conversation regarding poetry is: what should a poem do or be? Despite the many essays and all of the anthologies that exist on the subject of poetry, whether a poem is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and to the mind is always, arguably, up to the reader. This conversation is important when discussing Calvero’s I want Love So Great It Makes Nicholas Sparks Cream in His Pants. Calvero writes a little over two hundred pages of love poems, writing love in ways that make reading the words aloud may sound humorous, or may sound just like one giant dark satire on modern love and life. However, the words on the page are so frank, so unfiltered as if they were peeled off of the speaker’s mind like a sticker. They transfer onto the page as one (sometimes more than one) blunt, original, train of thought about things such as the woman that the speaker of the poem sexually desires, loves, sometimes even hates. This is the kind of poetry that forces oneself to think about our own writing. Whether it is a poem, a story, blog, Facebook status, or a page in our diary, what kind of agency do we give to our own thoughts? At what point do we decide which thoughts are the ‘good enough’ ones that are going to be seen by the rest of the world? The speaker in Calvero’s poems would probably say: fuck it, all of them.

I envy Calvero for what the speaker in his poems was able to deliver consistently from the first poem to the last- an unfiltered, unapologetic confession. Perhaps this was not his aim, but when I read the lines in his title poem at the end of the first chapter “I wanna fuck the woman/ of my dreams/on top of the Eiffel Tower,” I couldn’t help but wonder why he opted out of decorous, superfluous language. I thought about John Donne’s poem “The Flea,” where the speaker of his poem is using a Flea to convince the women in the poem why she should have sexual relations with the speaker. While Donne’s poetry is mainly described as metaphysical poetry, comparing the two poets’ style helps add to the larger conversation.  Needless to say, Calvero’s poems are anything but your typical hallmark card about love. This thought about Calvero’s poetry persisted into the second, third, and fourth chapter. In the penultimate chapter “Love from Afar,” the poem c.t., stands out as a moment where the speaker reaches a moment of clarity regarding the disdain that may come from love, or self-love. The speaker calls for one to allow your passions to consume you, to let our passions grow until they crush us, because “it’s the only way to live / and it’s the only way to die.” Often times in poetry, we are left to wonder if there is any big, capital “T” truths in it. We become heavily invested in trying to figure out if there is a point. However, in the poem c.t., I admire these words for their accessibility. At face value, the speaker may be offering us a way to deal with the heartache that comes from love and life, but simultaneously it is unaware of its audience. This poetry does not care whether you will listen to what it has to say, or whether you care about the words on the page sounding like they are trying to follow a popular literary convention.

This book is for those who are poetry opportunists, those who are willing to use the circumstances that Calvero has provided for us in writing, and use them to their advantage, i.e., a poem will make you feel something or perhaps nothing at all, and that is okay. In the culminating chapter “Finding Love in Unexpected Places,” Calvero expresses cynicism while still providing a sort of closure. In his final poem, “Happiness Revolution 4/15/13”, the lines “this is me / rebelling against everything shitty / that makes me / me” echo throughout and serve as a reminder to the speaker and the reader, that rebelling against oneself and the world around us is part of what makes us human. Our feelings are sometimes bigger than our own shadows, sometimes bigger than our logic at a particular moment in time: human heart > human brain. For seventeen pages, he constantly tugs at our failures as humans as orthodox, nothing more. Often times as readers or writers, we look for answers in what we read, but sometimes sit uneasy to voice our questions to get them. This is why Calvero’s choice of words throughout this book of poems is important—he champions the everyday voice in our head no matter who we are. It is okay to not have answers; it is okay to only have questions, to kick, scream and yell during our path to our own happiness revolution.


I Want Love So Great It Makes Nicholas Sparks Cream In His Pants is now available through University of Hell Press.

Book Review

Zero to Three

by on July 21, 2016

21922683Zero to Three by F. Douglas Brown


Zero to Three makes parenting, life, and death relevant to the reader’s life through words that bring the feeling of a moment in time in one’s life in which exists through the dichotomy of one word: fleeting. The words on the page leave a lasting impression, all the while touching upon parts of our lives that we remember as “passing us by so fast.” This book of poems begs us to ask questions such as at what moment are we alive, at what moment do we accept death, and how do we deal with bringing a child into a world where it is in our human fact to falter, to inflict emotional pain on others. This poetry invites us to relish in the beautiful and the ugly, because both foster growth. The words on the page go from “Zero to Three,” that is to say, they journey us through those formative years of life not often spoken of—and in brevity, they bleed on the page up until the “life” beyond ones own grave. They delight in new beginnings and try to capture the emotional enigma of endings, and sometimes vice versa.

In the opening poem “Zero,” the reader learns that a new life is soon to begin, but the speaker of the poem expresses the anxiety—the arithmetic process of coming to terms with the presence of Zero, the moment when life begins. “So soon, another body, her body will thump / My palm rolling/across her bare belly / after nine months, skin at its full potential.” While we often think of the number Zero as representing nothing, Zero is less than any whole number. Here we learn that we are wrong. Zero is everything—it is the instance of running to answer the phone, to know that your whole life is about to change in what feels like Zero seconds. In a space of nothingness, “all variables equals baby.” As the collection continues, it does not yearn to give us answers but rather is constantly nudging at us to remember about all of the mystery in the various stages of life, and touches upon the experience of learning from a new baby life. Similarly, like the son or the daughter in the poems of this collection we learn that we too are children, to our own experiences. In the book of poems, the child is who reminds the speaker of being inherently flawed, beautiful, and most importantly—human. Just as the reader learns every time the page is turned and the experience is felt.

In part II of this collection, a poem named “Finding Glee” focuses on how one can experience a kind of growth that goes beyond the physical growth of the body. Simultaneously, it speaks on the fleeting moment of realization that one has when thinking about our belonging in a world full of unpredictable chaos. Being young is not easy, and being grown up does not strip away the difficulties either. The author writes: “Finding glee in a world / That quickly turns cold in civil dispute / Seems nearly impossible…  By the time we get to “Finding Glee” we find ourselves once again, with the speaker of the poem, trying to find the beauty in the ugly. Other poems in this collection use different ways to rapture such moments. “Body Stubborn” includes lines from a song by hip hop trio A Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It,” and is successful at not only celebrating pop culture, but using it in juxtaposition to show maturation in a fundamental period of human life through this bop style poem. Brown’s poems draw inspiration from other writers and styles in ways that we are reminded, in the same sense that T.S. Eliot once coined about the “past-ness of the past and the present.” Brown is paving the way equally elevating writers and musicians of the past and the speaker’s own life in the present moment in which we are reading about it. At the turn of every page, there is a spectrum of new ideas that are presented and we realize that word placement becomes extremely vital in this book of poems. It guides us, like a parent to their child—telling us when it is best to slow down or speed up, when to begin or end. On the surface, this feeling the reader experiences through language play seems a bit paradoxical to the questions that his poetry seeks to leave at mystery to the reader, but without resistance it reinforces a learning experience that is bigger than ourselves and the control we have on our own lives.

The final section of Zero to Three consists of all prose poems numbered 1-13. They are poems that deal with loss but consistently elevate our humanness and the circle of life. Probing the mind again, making way for questions that the reader is left to relish in, for themselves. Often times we are told that finding the answers to the questions we have about our lives are the beautiful moments, the moments where we discover ourselves, a beautiful clarity. Zero to Three permits us to embrace the questions as they are at face value, like a birth mark on our skin, because our insecurities are very much a part of what allows us to evolve. “No such thing as flesh dying—the body will be the body again and again.” Suffice to say, F. Douglas Brown is not done here—his many stylistically different poems that sting with personal memories and the dismantling tropes of being a human “end” on not a definitive stance, but a longing to continue learning to embrace and welcome the different rhythms during our lives as we move forward to the next destination—wherever that place may be next.


Zero to Three is available now through the University of Georgia Press.