Tuesday, February 10, 2009

More than Friends: Poems from Him and Her

More Than Friends: Poems from Him and Her by Sara Holbrook and Allan Wolf is a dialogue between a guy and a girl about their relationship. At the start of the book, the two are friends - she complains to him about other guys who are jerks, he starts to wonder if she's worth it. Then one day, things change:

Veggie Panini is the Answer to Everything

I don't know what makes
two people "just friends" on Thursday
and "more than friends" on Friday.
But today was Friday.
The one-hundredth look
was different from the first ninety-nine.
Today's "Hi" was different
from every "Hi" that came before.

I swear I wasn't smitten,
but then . . . the lunch bell rang.
And there you are:
  sitting at our usual lunchroom table
  (has she always sat like that?)
  and we look at each other
  (has she always looked like that?)
  and we say "Hi"-
  (has she always talked like that?)
  eating what looks like
  (has she always chewed like that?)
  just a sandwich but what you inform me
  is actually a "veggie panini."

"A veggie what?" I ask and smile
as wide as a door on well-oiled hinges.
And you smile back the same and answer,
"Paah-NEE-nee. Paah-NEE-nee. A veggie panini."
  In English class I even look it up.

"Paah-NEE-nee. Paah-NEE-nee. A veggie panini."
I whisper it into the electric air and picture
your lips, your smile, your look, your lunch, your hair.
I mutter it all the way home:
"Veggie panini. Veggie panini."
I hug my mom (first time in like a year).
"And how was your day?" my mother asks.
"Veggie paah-NEE-nee" is my answer.

Veggie panini is the answer to everything.

They offer opinions on things like Shopping, Underwear, Sex and Music in short poems, and each of them explores their feelings as well.

The book follows the relationship through the giddy feelings of first love, and then issues crop up, like spending so much time together that you don't get time with other friends, not knowing what the other person wants, starting to feel like the other person doesn't like you just the way you are.

I Thought That Things Were Really Going Great

You knew, from jump, that I'm no fashion plate.
Now suddenly you're calling me a slob?
I thought that things were really going great.
You act like I'm applying for a job.
You want a full report when I'm not home.
The slightest misstep triggers your alarm.
While I admit my eyes do sometimes roam,
I look but I don't touch, so what's the harm?
If I appear defensive it's because
my me has been devoured by our we.
I thought that you were into who I was,
not into who I wanted you to be.
I thought we were a grand-slam hit home run,
but now I think we're going, going . . . done.

The two poems I've shared thus far are from the guy's point of view because hey - this is Guys Lit Wire after all. And a lot of guys who've been in relationships probably recognize something familiar in these poems. It may not be an exact fit, of course. But there's something to be said for reading about someone else's experience. Maybe it offers a map of what to do (or what not to do), or maybe it just offers a window into how to wrap your head around a relationship a bit.

And what makes this collection of poems so great is that for every poem written by the guy (Allan Wolf, channeling his inner teen), there's one written by the girl (Sara Holbrook channeling hers). Here's a sample of one of the poems written from a girl's point of view:

You Want Chocolate Chip Cookies With That Order?

So let me get this straight:
it isn't me, it's
us you hate?
I should sweetly stand and wait
while you
bike, hike,
score, snore,
dunk, plunk,
drive, dive,
drum, strum,
and skate
and never question why you're late?
I don't remember making a proposal.
You think I was born to be at your disposal?

The interesting thing about this collection is the mix of poems it contains. In addition to free verse, there are tankas (an Asian form), sonnets (that second poem was one), quatrains, terza rima, poem for two voices, villanelle, and even a Vietnamese form known as luc bat, and the book both flags the form and (in the back) gives a brief explanation of what the form consists of.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in poetry, particularly in a variety of forms, and for anyone interested in trying to understand romantic relationships (which is probably everyone, yes?).

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