Title: Butterflies & Bullets
Author: Trisha Sugarek
Rating: Must Read!
Publisher: Trisha Sugarek
Reviewed by: Eric Jones, Book Review
I knew Sugarek’s work in the past from her collection of short children’s plays, Ten Minutes to Curtain, which involve the complicated dynamics of growing up. Flannery O’Conner said that if you live through childhood then you have enough material to write forever, and Sugarek has been there and then some. Her short work for the stage has put her in the perfect position to transition from play to poetry with her new book, Butterflies and Bullets.
Even the title denotes the strange duality between innocence and loss, and that theme is prevalent throughout the work. Mostly in free form, Sugarek keeps everything in a minimalist range, lending focus to intimate moments like a man playing his Mandolin beside a fire or the quiet landscape of the Serengeti just before rainfall. These truncated pieces of life feel like literary snapshots. These are Sugarek’s butterfly collection. Then, of course, there are the bullets.
The bullets are also set in free form, however they deal with much more happenings and are more narratively set. My favorite poem is one of these. “Hair Cut… Two Bits” chronicles the return of a barber from war-torn Europe in 1934 via a freighter into the Mississippi from the Gulf. The story, though scarcely a few pages, manages to convey the loss, struggle, and triumph of war given a single, near microscopic, experience. Not to mention that it’s all the more topical today, given the current mess in off the shore of New Orleans.
There are many that are like these, managing to say a lot with only a little and Butterflies and Bullets comes off splendidly. The collection feels complete and utterly whole, no piece of the pie excluded. Such close ups reveal that every place is connected. The ocean, if you look closely enough, looks just like rain on the blistering asphalt of your driveway. Shanty Irish curtains, at a certain scale, are indistinguishable from the sculpted wood of a Native American totem pole. This is the nature of Sugarek’s poetry, that when you pull back you see how different everything is, but when you put it under the microscope, a butterfly is really just a bullet with wings.
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