Crush by Richard Siken

41prd9tiqel-_sy344_bo1204203200_I haven’t been able to read anything since I finished this collection of poetry. As soon as I finished I just wanted to go back and read it all over again.

In her introduction Louise Gluck quotes Emliy Dickenson, “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”  This is a bold quotation to use but I thoroughly agree with it.  I never expected Crush to excite me this much when I picked it up on a whim but I’m so very glad I did.

Richard Siken was the winner of the Yale Younger Poets prize in 2004 and Crush is an intimate and devastating account of queerness, violence and romance.  I didn’t know poetry could be written like this, Siken writes long breathless lines that are effortless to read yet can hit you like a punch in the gut and speed towards the margins like a car falling downhill.

           The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater

because he is trying to kill you,

                    and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,

                                        and you are ready to die in this swimming pool

          because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means

                                                                                your life is over anyway.

Siken is so emotive that sometimes I would read a poem on my commute and then stare gormlessly out the window unable to handle the rush.

and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless

                                                  he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you

                                                                                                              didn’t do,

There are a whole range of poems in this collection, the one thing they have in common is the ability to drown the reader, to drag them under into Siken’s universe. This is a beautiful train crash and heartbreak of a book. I have never enjoyed being made to experience despair, claustrophobia and desperation so much. Not only can Siken emote like a master but he also is an artist with language itself, using it to paint beautiful fiery images in the air.

Chemical names, bird names, names of fire

and flight and snow, baby names, paint names,

delicate names like bones in the body,

Rumplestiltskin names that are always changing,

names that no one’s ever able to figure out.