I have only recently been introduced to the poetry of Melody Lee and had only read a single piece before I dove into Vine: Book of Poetry, her recently released second book. Vine is divided into five sections: Clematis, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Ivy, and Wisteria. Lee provides background information about the qualities and lore of each plant, which helped set the stage for each section as well as provide me with some nifty garden trivia.
What struck me from the very first poem This Is How I Know is how beautiful Lee’s imagery is:
‘It gracefully dances up my spine
Gently wrapping around my heart
And I flourish extravagantly’
One of my favorite pieces in the collection is Cunning Linguist, which appeals to the senses. It is multisensory and tactile, with language such as ‘I wear it like luxurious cashmere’ and ‘I gulp, I sip, swallow.’ My favorite line in the whole book also comes from this piece. She declares: ‘I am a book harlot.’ I smiled to myself and said, ‘Me too!’
Vine is filled with sumptuous love poems such as Coffee, which starts with sensuous lines ‘Pour yourself a cup of steaming coffee/honey, then come pour yourself into me’ but also has an edge that I quite liked the bite of. Lines such as ‘but we worship each other/on skin and dirty knees’ from Let’s Be Honest or ‘Sometimes poetry is dark and brutal/has fangs and teeth’ from Dear Reader provide balance to the softer poems in the book.
Although much of Vine is concerned with the ebb and flow of lovers, Lee also has a passionate affair with poetry. Another personal favorite, Dear Reader, displays this eloquently:
‘Don’t say poetry doesn’t make sense
while you are eating the words
as if they are a last meal,
as your backbone curves, as goose bumps
rise on your legs, arms.
That is all the sense poetry needs to make.’
Where Lee’s longer love poems are lush and languid, her punctuations of micro poetry are sometimes pointed and bracing, such as the poem Warning:
‘They should have warned you
that little princesses grow up
to be red rocks and raging seas,
fire dragons and warrior queens.’
I also loved the sly social commentary to be found in Lee’s piece Church with such lines as ‘Truth is, I am allergic to hypocrites’ and
‘If Jesus and His apostles were here,
surely, they would be rolling their eyes,
maybe even tipping over tables,
if you would even allow them and their dirty feet
into your spotless, sterile sanctuaries.’
I finished Vine a firm Melody Lee fan with a keen longing to hear more of her voice, particularly her sharp social observations and pieces such as Insanity Invades Like a Tumor, which starts off sounding like another of her love poems, but quickly turns deliciously dark, bringing to mind the writing of Edgar Allen Poe. Good thing her first book, Moon Gypsy, is already on its way.
Vine: Book of Poetry is available through Amazon and other major retailers