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Review 56: Nude by Michael Sweet

by Michael Sweet
Copyright: © 2008
69 Pages
$8.95 Paperback
ISBN: 9781435754348

Take one look at the cover of Michael Sweet’s book and your interest is perhaps immediately aroused.  The title - Nude - one single word that catches a second glance and makes us privately take notice.  Its black and white image of skin and shadow laced with a touch of peachy fuzz, like remnants in a cotton candy machine, makes us look closer. That curve, that dimple, that place just out of the six by nine frame…you know the place.  It’s poetry, isn’t it?  And you’re right.

It is a book of poetry.

Thumbing through the pages, wandering eyes will find a few photographs of naked Greek statues, but with hands and feet strategically covering the parts you thought you’d get to see in a book called Nude.  The first poem in the book serves as a double entendre for the book cover alone.  It’s a quick and concise poem about Sweet seeing his mother nude for the first time as a child:

perhaps the faintest breeze
would have caused her to cover herself
and remain my mother

Reading Sweet’s words immediately conjured up images of  Tennessee Williams or Truman Capote sitting on a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street, smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey, and writing about whatever came to mind…people passing on the street, a steamboat rolling on the river, or just the summer rain.  His simple poems are short and lazy sounding and flow naturally off the tongue if you read them out loud. Sweet is an artist, who can definitely paint a word picture with very few words at that.  Here is one such poem in its entirety:

in the shelter of silence
a city waits
the sky has sobered
let us learn to love the rain

And yet there are other poems that evoke a very different sense, hitting you hard in the gut and painting pictures you might not want to see, like your own nude mother, or perhaps the Diary of a Nazi:

I’ve seen souls reshape in the smoke
of burning bodies;
I’ve seen eyes dry and crack like glass
and fat sizzle,
and skulls cracked
in two places.
I’ve seen myself in that breathless hole,
eyes and mouth – lungs full of dirt;
only the dead escaped.

Forbidden love, new love, lovers, first kisses, forever moments, moonlight, passion, more kisses, more love, smiles, forevers…the authors “love” poems unfortunately became repetitive, predictable, and too frequent for me.  I felt like I’d read them somewhere else before, and half way through the book I had already read them…just a few pages back.  For example, this poem called “Love” on page 49 which sounds like a Valentines greeting card…

I see something in your eyes,
your smile,
I hear something in your voice,
your laugh,
I feel something in your embrace,
upon your lips,

Lines from the last poem in the book almost give a perfect explanation….

These lines have been written
and rewritten,
erased and covered.
Ink and paper cannot expose me,
I have written love poem after love poem
in search of life’s unspoken promise.

Love cannot be written any longer.
It must be given,

As a poet myself, I’ve often repeated themes of love in my work, and yet like Sweet, displayed my true talent for verse in poems that probably came about unexpectedly.  It is these verses from Sweet that really “expose” Nude as being divine work from a strong, yet sensitive, poet with true talent.

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