COLD COMFORT: Book Review by Joyce Metzger

COLD COMFORT Selected Poems 1970-1996 by Lyn Lifshin
1997: p/bk.:alk trade paper 282 pps. ISBN 1-57423-040-9
Black Sparrow Press,24 Tenth St., Santa Rosa, CA 95401

After the highlighted silhouette moves, will the real Lyn Lifshin, please move forward ten paces; jump and shout? Wave a red flag. Light a menorah to reflect in bay window. Renew your power to enhance the female voice; for the small press poetry scene. Impress upon us, your expertise, enticement, and seductiveness?

She has, and does. No reader need ask, or remain stone-transfixed in the dark. Lifshin has become a household name; the bold modern womanhood voice, and flag bearer. This, when few could rap hard enough, long enough, to open doors, let alone knock down seemingly insurmountable barriers.

Lyn has written more than 90 books and chapbooks of poetry. I published "RESTROOMS ANYONE?Plus: A Classic Lifshin Reader" via JVC BOOKS in 1997, also. (Happy to see the same Lyn photo used!) I had been captivated by Lifshin's Holocaust poems; these were subsequently published by Event Horizon in "BLUE TATTOO," a poignant reminder of, what has been, is possible, and still might lurk behind us, everyday, in this hall of mirrors.

Lyn has edited four major anthologies of women's writing. She gives workshops on writing and publishing while pushing emotions, sensuality, and sexuality; bringing all (with finesse) from darkened closet into the light. Lifshin has won a New York State Caps Grant; A Bread Loaf Scholship, and a Jack Kerouac award.

COLD COMFORT was her initial debut under Black Sparrow imprint.

The poignant, little girl lost syndrome used as ONYXVELVET is listed as her autobiography here. Black velvet. Soft. Warm. Cuddly. Crushable.-- Kitten steel claws, which mask a hidden strength reserve tapped, and drawn upon, continuously, by this small, blonde poetess.

Lyn writes about herself, her mother, mothers and daughters, relatives, old and new lovers, Barbie, Mad Girls, Jackie-O, Jesuits, Jesus, Lorena, survivors and victims, equally well-- She digs deeper into that well, searches for the inner core; lays it bare, scratches, sniffs, then saunters away, satisfied.

--I painted my first skull
from a barrel of bones--

--Under glass in the museum
like women's clothes
from Plains Cree
hung behind glass,
still stained with bloody
holes from arrows.
In boudoirs, bordellos
and honeymoon hotels
people have used mirrors
for erotic pleasure,--

`` --but until
they put that sand
and dirt in my face
ladies and gentle
men I've had enough--
--a camouflage
over the babies'/graves. Even as/the Americans
marched in, 2000/were killed.../they
put ivy over the/earth where arms
and legs were/still sticking up.--

--like the sound/of giraffe/necks shattering.
trembling./ Crystal bullets...
...he washes his/coarse beard/with soap made
of a sister/you don't know.--

--Hiromu Morishiti found/her father later that
day lying in a grassy/ field. He'd been on
a streetcar near/downtown, on his/way to work. She
cremated him in/her garden that/ night, his eyes
like those grilled/fish....

Lyn Lifshin has proven she can, and does, write about anything which crosses her path, or tweaks her imagination. Her curiosity prickles. No subject is taboo-- penises, nipples, breasts, sex, religion, nuns, or priests; but the poems are always executed with finesse, finer brushstrokes from an artistic wand.

Lyn is the consummate actress-playwright. She's always on stage in her mind, with a raging battle for new word usage; as a dream nymph, the messenger of a holy war she knows, and reveres, as "poetry".

Lifshin deserves every kudo accolade which drifts, or is hurled her way. She's traveled via subway, train, airplane and vehicle to arrive for a fifteen minute reading. She has oiled the shocks of the USPS trucks by sending out bulging envelopes of poems, and should be renamed; Lyn Poetryseed of the Small Press.

In all the stuffed envelope packets I have received from Lyn, never once did she fail to send sufficient SASE to return any unusable material. I cannot say that for many who struggled up the ladder behind her.

COLD COMFORT seems a curious title for a successful poet. What could be lacking? Is COLD COMFORT a kaddish sung, a menorah lit for that missing daughter, mother, or father? Perhaps.

Will the real Lyn Lifshin please stand up to receive: The kudos certainly offered here, by this reviewer, for the patient drummer, bugle blower and marching band of poetic words, redubbed; Lyn Lifshin. Blonde she is, but not helplessly hysterical. She is not empty headed fluff drifting on the wind. Her purposeful mission was recognized years ago, and is still being fulfilled, with every book she pens.

A hearty thumbs-up (all of them) for Lyn Lifshin; the first all out woman of the small press poetic world! We have read Lyn's work; have learned, have tried to match her wits.