Adventures in Reading


What Is This Thing Called Love by Kim Addonizio (2004)
February 6, 2008, 4:40 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction
“The body isn’t the house.
If the body is the house,
is the soul up late in the kitchen, sleepless,
standing before the open refigerator,
is it tired of TV,
sickened by its own thoughts?”
– From Addonizio’s “Body and Soul.”

My partner thought it was amusing when I brought home Kim Addonizio’s poetry collection What Is This Thing Called Love despite my gut reaction that I would dislike it based on the title and cover. Through the years book covers have been very good to me when it comes to selling me new books. The only reason I stumbled onto Addonizio’s collection is because it was the first book of poetry that came after “Addiss” in the store. What didn’t I like? I am burnt out on grasping love/erotic poetry and the cover is so… uninteresting. Thus I was pleasantly surprised upon realizing how much I was enjoying this collection once I was a few poems in.

The back of the collection offered some interesting tidbits of interpretations of the collection. The book “is a hot, dark book of the body” and the poems are “house parties with the doors thrown open” but also “like swallows of cold, grassy white wine.” Addonizio herself is described as “One of the nation’s most provocative and edgy poets.” To add my two cents (though not quite as glamorous as these other reviews), Addonizio’s poems are comfortable and interesting and she extends a sharp reading of some classic poetic themes.

What Is This Thing Called Love deals in poetic topics that have always been rather in vogue from death to love to motherhood, and while the familiarity of these topics are comfortable Addonizio touches on these subjects in a glancing and contemporary manner. While most of the poems are lovely and stretch and reshape these topics, some of Addonizio’s poems do falter into being overly “provocative.” While for the life of me I cannot remember who said it (an Irish writer?) but a poet’s job is difficult and splendid but the work should appear effortless. Addonizio has produced an enjoyable collection though I fear the book has received more hype than it actually deserves.

Overall though, I did enjoy this book and am glad to add it to my collection. Many of the poems are brilliant and even those I did not enjoy show a lot of promise. Kim Addonizio will definitely be a poet I am watching for in the future.

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