Blue Lyre by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

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The Romantic Surrealist’s Ear —A Review of Blue Lyre by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

by Larissa Shmailo

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The second-best thing I like about Blue Lyre, Jeff Wright’s Kathy Acker Award-winning book, is that I can’t pigeonhole the voice, although a surrealist Frank O’Hara with a richer metaphoric lexicon comes to mind. Kinda. For O’Hara, the part where the everyday meets the unexpected trope. For surrealism, Wright’s way with original images and their juxtapositions. For example, these lines from Wright’s invocation of his muse:
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I pick up some words
and toss them in the air
to see if you pay any mind.
Just to see
if your breath catches fire.
                        —“Begging for It”
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Wright is a self-proclaimed New Romantic, and perhaps that’s what has been missing from surrealism to date: there is a yearning in these poems with their diamond glitter on the beach that complements the surrealist’s art as it jumpstarts romanticism. Unusual language meets love, and poetic devices are freed from their leashes:
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Take me to your navel.
“Aye aye, Capitan.”
. . .
Ready for the Canon
to come on.
And by the way, your clown
costume becomes you.
“Aye aye capstan.” Let me
hoist you from the depths.
A winch I’ll be for my wench.”
—“Titania’s Tool”
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What I like best about Wright’s work is reading it aloud. Live Mag! editor Wright is a known New York impresario of spoken word and the oral tradition, and Blue Lyre’s jazzy rhythms attest to his ear. No mushiness here: The line breaks are crisp as ice and right:
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            Black plums from Madame X
            conspire on the sill.
. . .
            Following the choir.
            Listening to the “new” air sound.
            Looking for a “new” word order.
                                    —“Thimblerig”
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Like a wise Zen teacher, Wright offers his share of koans in Blue Lyre: “Now only ashes remember / how many ways we burned”; and “Always the sky / has the last say” and the brilliantly titled “(B)utterfly)”:
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            Yeah, well,
            My heart’s a reed
this poem
blows through.
—    “(B)utterfly”
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With its expansive minimalism, surrealistic romanticism, and page-meets-stage poetry, Blue Lyre would clearly win the approval of Jeff Wright’s muse and, most likely, yours as well.

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You can find the book here: https://www.dosmadres.com/shop/blue-lyre-by-jeffrey-cyphers-wright/

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Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, translator, editor, and critic. Her latest novel is Sly Bang.

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