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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Too Heavy to Carry by Cat Dixon

Every review I write, I write as if about a friend's work... to a friend:  What works well? What does not? And, fingers crossed, without offense.  Hopefully, you'll know enough whether you should read this book.  After all, if I don't warn you away from a book you may not like, you may not trust my judgment.  Besides, I've tended to be honest throughout my present incarnation, hopefully with more tact than I had as a grasshopper.

Being in Honduras, I could not immediately read my friend Cat Dixon's recent book of poetry, Too Heavy to Carry, but I've since learned it is a damn fine one.

It treats a woman's journey of being a woman--love, marriage, divorce, kids, life, and the conflicted feelings that tug at one when trying to wrestle with these issues. She isn't afraid of being real, of showing the hidden face of private life, regrets and hope.

She has always been bold as a poet--too bold perhaps for some readers--but her poems have gained a deeper nuance and richness of feeling I'd not seen before. Her tone is almost always on target. And her poems feel whole. You can lift them out and enjoy them for what they are, but they also rub against the other poems in the collection to give you a deeper understanding of what it means to be a woman.

Perhaps one of the more fascinating aspects is how Dixon adopts the cat as part of a shifting, molting persona.  Playful and somber, exultant and blue, funny and bitter, Dixon spans the gamut of emotions. I recommend the collection to anyone interested in poetry and/or the complex life of women.

These are my favorite poems--my votes for any Dixon greatest-hits collection.  These survived multiple readings:

"Commiserating with Another Parent"
The mosquitoes buzz into
the sweet bottles.  We watch
as they fly inside the glass--
then you cork them, trapped.

"Daughters over Sons"
the only memory I have of my father like that is when I was five or six and he took my foot into his mouth, wet and warm, told me he was going to eat it--my leg extended into the air like a kick and I'm sure I laughed like you, but I don't remember.

"Circus Man"
Killer last line, but it doesn't work well without the rest of the poem.
He juggled fire without scorching his skin.

"Black Cat"
I didn't cut my arms or hide
the marks beneath long sleeves.
It was the cat.

"The Reef"

The calcium exoskeleton is
broken and made holy
by the waves

"Once a Woman"
"Here," he brags to coworkers.
"I survived Catharine."


always one guy who didn't see the newscast or who just didn't give a fuck....
Everything that is too heavy to carry on, rests.


This poem is hard to quote without the whole.

"Tabula Rasa"
I tap the glass,
call over the mike
to the narrow, empty tomb

"Eulogy for John Berryman"
to grieve the loss
like I knew you.....
I, too,
sprang from a cigarette ash flick,
an extra shot of tequila....


Also notable for the thought shifts that yet follow its thought.
a lover in a king-sized bed
who can't sleep alone....
Between us the brittle crevasses
are God's dentures.  He's taken
them out for the night; left them
soaking in Polident.

Here are a few surreal poems that struck and stick with me although I couldn't say why:

  1. "The Winter Moth Orbits the Light"
  2. "With the Zoologist in the Closed Exhibit"
  3. "Sunday Afternoon at Mission Park"
  4. "Whip with her Hair"

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