Thursday, May 9, 2013

LIFE'S A BEACH by TAMMY NUZZO-MORGAN

NEIL LEADBEATER Reviews

Life’s a Beach by Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan
(Writers Ink Press, Daytona Beach, Florida 2011)


Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan is the founder and president of The North Sea Poetry Scene, publisher of The North Sea Poetry Scene Press and editor of Long Island Sounds Anthology. She is the author of five previous books of poetry, one of which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She is also the first woman to have been appointed Suffolk County Poet Laureate, a position she held from 2009-2011.

“Life’s A Beach” explores man’s inhumanity to man. The poems have a raw edge to them. They rage against war, injustice, and anger and they inhabit a world of personal suffering and loss but they also seek understanding and healing. There is compassion here and an empathy for those who fight for freedom, who stand up for the oppressed, who reach out to those who have been exploited and abused. There is also a yearning for acceptance in an often intolerant world. Tammy Nuzzo-Morgan is a survivor. She writes from personal experience. How else could one find the words to express these themes so succinctly?

In Swallowing Stones she says:

I have been swallowing
stones all my life.
I am an artist at it.
………

By double digits I found my voice
to testify to years of stones
doled out as if dessert.

The poem is central to our understanding of the whole book. It is intensely personal, which is partly what makes it so powerful, but it is also universal insofar as we all swallow stones, some more often than others, depending upon our circumstances. The phrase I am an artist at it reads as if it is an accomplishment. For me, it echoes Sylvia Plath’s chilling lines in Lady Lazarus:

Dying
is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.


Nuzzo-Morgan refuses to be weighed down by these stones. She expels them by giving voice to them in the poetry of powerful speech. Shorn of all adornment, they surface with a controlled intensity that gives them a real punch. A quick scan of some of the headings such as Poem # 1, Poem # 6 and This Poem Has No Title is revealing. The point here is that there is no need for a fancy title - the content alone is enough to draw the reader in. Where there are titles, they are very plain and leave the reader in no doubt as to their subject matter; Altar Boy, Haiti, Your Generation, etc.

One of the ways in which Nuzzo-Morgan achieves such an impact is by piling one image upon another in quick succession which in turn has a flooding effect upon the reader. Poem # 6, for example, opens with the following statements:

I am not the Coca-Cola girl,
the Cheez-It tidbit waiting for you to taste,
the limbo ride to the Yankee’s game,
the Wrangler-Jeans chick baking in California sun…

Instead, she tells us that she is

the flat tyre on the side of the road.

Just when we are lulled into a false sense of security, luxuriating in the humour of this piece, we are pulled up sharply by the last line where she declares that she is

…the one who never forgets to tell the truth.

A similar technique is used to good effect in Maybe Someday I Will Get It Right. Again, this is a poem we can all identify with -- one which is about trying so hard to please to the extent that we forget to concentrate on the things that really matter in a relationship. The things that really matter are themselves hidden in the poem so that we have to actively seek them out. One by one, they appear at intervals, jumbled up in the list of statements and almost lost in the sea of print. Pick them out and put them aside and you will see what I mean:

I forgot to tell you I need you

I forgot to tell you I want you

I forgot to tell you I love you.

The overbearing sense of guilt present in this poem is continued to some extent in My Apology:

I am sorry for the magic I missed by sleeping alone
for not slow dancing with you when the music stopped

------

for being me and for not being her.

The repetition of I am sorry at the start of each stanza has a cumulative effect which in turn brings the message home.

Introspection aside, there are other poems in this volume which speak to us of events outside of our immediate selves such as wars, earthquakes and post-traumatic stress. Here the themes are enlarged but they are still written with genuine compassion.

In During, for example, the poem begins innocently enough with the first line following on from the title:

the high school football game
the trip to the mall
walking in the park…

It repeats the cumulative effect mentioned above -

making love

silly love spats

dreaming at night…

but the last line pulls us up and becomes the focal point of the whole poem:

our soldiers keep dying

In another poem, Nuzzo-Morgan asks how do you keep going after your finger has been on the trigger and squeezed.

The revulsion and futility of war is perhaps felt most keenly in Abraham’s Offering:

……….If I had known

I gave life to nothing more than cannon fodder
I would have pinched his nose shut,
covered his mouth with my hand…

These poems are counterbalanced by others that are unashamedly “open” in their declarations of sexual pleasure. Nuzzo-Morgan writes beautiful, sensual poems that are, at times, tinged with eroticism. These poems dance. Reading them is to enjoy a moment of intimacy behind closed doors. In This Is The Moment When… she writes of the moment

when your scent lingers

in my nose the cup
of your hand enfolds
my breast my fingers
play down your back…

The absence of punctuation and the way the words are placed so that they move smoothly over the line creates a rushing effect that makes for an exhilarating read.

Her sense of humour is played out in poems such as Early Menopause and The Do Drop Inn. The deliciously erotic undertone that is present in Top Ten Ways To Cope With Your New Tail must surely turn this piece into a classic.

The poems in this collection demand attention. They deserve to be heard and they speak for the many who have walked through the valley of the shadow and yet lived to see its light. They are bright blessings that shine like pearls in a survivor’s hands. Above all, they exert an extraordinary power which in itself is a measure of their achievement and success.


*****

Neil Leadbeater is an editor, author, essayist and poet living in Edinburgh, Scotland. His short stories, articles and poems have been published widely in anthologies and journals both at home and abroad. His first full-length collection of poems, Hoarding Conkers at Hailes Abbey was published by Littoral Press in 2010 and a selection of his Latin American poems, Librettos for the Black Madonna, was published by White Adder Press in 2011.




2 comments:

  1. Patrice HasbrookMay 22, 2013 at 7:07 AM

    Congratulations again and again Tammy...love to you and love your new work, more please... Patrice

    ReplyDelete
  2. YES! more NEW WORKS ! & Help Me write some new works too :-)

    ReplyDelete