Love, Etc. by L.L. Barkat
Writer and poet L.L. Barkat is blessed with a talent for metaphor, an eye for the spare image that can shimmer like a polished gem, and a sensuous and lyrical voice — gifts she uses beautifully, even profoundly, in her focused new collection of poetry, Love, Etc. (T.S. Poetry Press, March 17, 2014).
With an enviable economy of words — a trademark — Barkat shows and never, or almost never, tells. For her, love is a fully lived experience — replete with the "Etc." that is by turns playful, suggestive of what could be, mysterious, wistful, carnal, eternal. It is bound complexly in romance, family, and friendship; colored as much by humor and laughter as by hurt and loss. It arises in the still watchfulness of a parent beside a child's bed "on breath-thin nights" ("Ours"); in the long empty space between an open and a closed parenthesis ("Meet Me in a Minimalist Poem Where We Can Wear") — a clever riposte to academy poets and a marvelous metaphor for what always can be left unsaid; in the lines of the hands ("Whispered"); in the acceptance of "a hot kiss of clove and cinnamon" ("Choice"); in the shattering of a glass bangle ("Rabia's Confession") or the sleep that comes before and after ("Fantasy").
No one poem can stand for a single definition of "love", and that is the point. Love needs space, it needs time, it needs (sometimes) an "open mouth" and a "full spoon" of soup ("Spanish Recipe"). It wants a delicate and knowing touch, sure and never forced diction, inspiration and imagination. Above all, it wants the "proof" of a poem, which Barkat delivers in this collection in as many ways as her "untie[d] tongue" and "tiger-eyed" glances can provide.
I love them, you know.
All your little beaded words.
The tiger-eyed ones, the Italian
red glass (with the foil inside).
I love the way you line them up,
as on a golden thread. The onyx,
the abalone, even the dark brown
wood ones all carved and oblong.
I keep them in a velvet-throated box,
and when I am alone, I put my fingers
all through their crystal chattering.
Read Love, Etc. all at once, section-by-section, one poem a day, before you say goodnight; but read and return to it often. It rewards and gives back by settling in deep.
And come Valentine's Day, don't forget to tuck a copy of Love, Etc., under the pillow of your lover. You won't need any other words than those in this slim, red-covered volume. It will make its own spark and leave it up to you keep the fire burning.
L.L. Barkat is the author of six books, including the poetry collection InsideOut (International Arts Movement, 2009), the experimental fiction and poetry titled The Novelist: A Novella (T.S. Poetry Press, 2012), and Rumors of Water: Thoughts on Creativity & Writing (T.S. Poetry Press, 2011). Barkat's poems have appeared at VerseWrights, Best American Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Every Day Poems. The managing editor of TweetSpeak Poetry, Barkat also is a staff writer for The Curator magazine.
Love, Etc. is available in paperback and as an e-book for Kindle and Nook.