That Those Lips Had Language
Filled with surprising turns and bursts of imagery and imagination, That Those Lips had Language is an ambitious book of poetry. Blonstein seems awed by language itself, and she pushes its limits to upset readers’ expectations. Placing titles at the ends of poems, employing unorthodox punctuation and obscure vocabulary, and using primarily lowercase letters indicate that the author is challenging readers to approach these poems with a non-traditional point of view, to allow themselves to have a unique, perhaps transformative, experience.
A concern with the female body and its experiences is pervasive and compelling here, as well as a constant turning from abstraction to concrete imagery and back, as if Blonstein searches for a way to express those experiences, but realizes the impossiblity of such a task. Turning to puns and rhyme for inspiration, she writes of a “waisted world of light” where ghosts’ “desire is entropy renaunting/ space (boundary of violets instead of a face).” Her pairings of abstract and concrete imagery are often stunning: “will: a chandelier of orange music,” and “the high sea sounds like/ a ruffled blue in exile.” Thankfully, no matter how far Blonstein ventures into the conceptual, each poem provides a grounding moment of the tangible. She knows these moments are necessary to dispell a reader’s anxiety of the unknown and keep her reading.
Blonstein’s perspective is unquestionably feminist here; though the poems touch on overt politics only a few times, one understands that every unorthodox use of grammar and image asks us to rethink our comfortable and cliché’d schemas. The book combines this questioning of the dominant paradigm, characteristic of “language poets,” with a desire to create a real, sensual world for the reader. Perhaps Blonstein describes her goal with these lines from “babelique”: “she regenerates words to verify the world/ because what has always been forgotten/ is like arms starfish sacrifice to survive.”