Laurie Byro’s Hopeless Romance, Reviewed by Jim Zola

51Cr2Vh4N6LLaurie Byro, Hopeless Romance, Independently published (May 30, 2020), ISBN-13: 979-8649882507 64 pages

Review of Hopeless Romance by Laurie Byro

If Laurie Byro’s new book of poetry was a movie, the list of featured actors scrolling at the end would be fantastic. Ophelia, Perdita, Daphne, Pancho Villa’s widow, Samson, Ezra Pound, Venus, Pablo Neruda, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, the Beatles, Edgar Allan Poe, Allen Ginsberg, Jane Eyre, Boo Radley, Persephone, Alice Liddell, Lewis Carroll, Miranda, Caliban, Bungalow Bill, Eleanor Rigby and Little Richard. What brings all these diverse characters together is love – sensual, unrequited, sibling, forgotten, simple, complex, imagined and often messy.

The flower beds outside the porch are trampled
beneath all the waxing and waning. Another wolf
is huffing at the door. Romance can be a messy
enterprise. –
from The Pig’s Wife at Forty

The poems in Hopeless Romance are not easy. With an understanding of literature, mythology, and pop culture, one can dive deeper into the narrative. Yet each poem works on many levels. They encourage the reader to go beyond the poem, to know things.

While I carried each stone away, lifted
the fence that kept you out, I decided
not to be scared to know things.
Sometimes now I toss fallen butterflies
back into the tattered air.
— from Miranda and Caliban

Poems in this book are full of love spoken from the lips of others, or interwoven with the poet’s own voice. The poet Matthew Rohrer argues in a recent essay (Literary Hub, April 28, 2020) that all poetry is collaboration. Hopeless Romance is pocked full of these collaborations – ekphrastic, anthropomorphic, personified. The voices speak from folklore, The Three Little Pigs, from literature via Alice and Wonderland, and most often from Shakespeare. The last poems in the book bring characters from Beatle songs back to life. We are taken beyond the song, beyond the page. Here romance is the ultimate collaboration.

I sense the ghost of Bob Dylan in many of these poems, especially the ones addressing love lost. There is plenty of humor in these poems, the weariness of marriage in Pig’s Wife at Forty, and the beat poet Ginsberg flirting with the stock boy in Upon Meeting Allen Ginsberg in a Supermarket in New Jersey. But there is melancholy too in the poem Voyager Gold or in the poem For Art’s Sake where the husband finds a poem about the wife’s affair hidden in old tax returns.

I left nothing from my poem. Sated,
I bundled it up with an old tax return
and put it into a knapsack in the basement
You know the rest. How three years later,
we are audited for some careless error.

How he discovers the old poem and stops
on the cellar steps to read it.”

I have not been able to describe the sounds
with human words. A fox
whose leg is trapped by steel
teeth, as it gnaws its leg off.
— from For Art’s Sake

And nothing is left from the poems in Hopeless Romance. But they are not without hope. The poet knows what she needs to reveal. In the poem Venus and Mary she writes “still every woman has her own story.” This is Bryo’s story written in collaboration with others, featured actors, and collaborating with the self.

I am the last of the romantics: bury me under
the blanket of your boughs, the thick bristles
of solstice fir a bed for me to crawl though
as I did in my former life, the one without you.
– from The Wild Fir

Laurie Byro might not be the last of the romantics, but as she proves in Hopeless Romance, she is right up there with the finest.

© Laurie Byro and Jim Zola

Laurie Byro has been facilitating “Circle of Voices” poetry discussion in New Jersey Libraries for over twenty years. Her work has been published widely in University Presses and she has been included in several anthologies. Laurie has won fifty-five InterBoard Poetry Community awards. Laurie has recently received two New Jersey Poet’s Prizes and a Poets & Writers Grant. Laurie is currently Poet in Residence at the West Milford Township Library where “Circle of Voices” continues to meet. She is married to the artist Michael Byro who has graced the covers of her books. Her previous collections of poetry are: Luna: Aldrich Press; Gertrude Stein’s Salon: Blue Horse Press; Wonder: Little Lantern Press; The Bloomsberries: Kelsay Books; La Dogaressa: Cowboy Buddha Press; D’eux and Other Sorrows: Cowboy Buddha Press.

Jim Zola is a poet and photographer living in North Carolina. He works as a children’s librarian at a public library. His photo art can be found all over the internet. His poetry book publications include: One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press); What Glorious Possibilities (Aldrich Press); Monday After the End of the World (Kelsay Books); Erasing Cabeza de Vaca (forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press); It’s the Unremarkable That Will Last (forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press).

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