I normally don't do rah-rah posts for my books but I received such a wonderful review for The ABCs of Memory that I want to share it with readers. Scott Whitaker, a poet himself, nailed what I was trying to do in the book. I am very pleased with this review.
Lenny Lianne’s newest volume of poetry, The ABCs of Memory, from ScriptWorks Press, mashes two books of poetry, with opposing ideals, together, a tradition that harkens back to Blake: An Alphabet from An Ample Nation and An Alphabet of Modest Means. Memory strikes a contemporary chord, cherishing the past while tightening the belt on the future, a theme most Americans could identify with in these recent years of economic recovery.
Lianne’s ABCs are broad in depth and range, and touch on cultural milestones such as Elvis, Nancy Drew, Wonder Bread, 9 – 11, and Ty Cobb, as well as personal memories of her family. These poems are celebrations, elegies, and like the titles of the books, or parts, suggest, hint at a plethora of riches, or a plethora of troubles, big and small.
Lianne speaks with authority about young men drafted into war in “Basic Training” and young boys peeking at their Centerfold cousin in “Finding the Playmate of the Month. Lianne doesn’t just recount these memories, invented or real, but often questions them, mourns for them without evoking false pride or anger.
The ABCs of Memory could easily fall into sentimentality: we are talking about memories. We are talking about cultural heroes. Lost wonders of the good old days, but Lianne does not allow the poems to do so. She steers them towards a unified bridge, another great American tradition — unifying the country through poetic voice, where all emotional landscapes butt up against each other, like so many state lines running parallel and perpendicular. One of the finer poems, “Velocity and Other Variables”, begins as a memory of boys throwing olives but ends as a meditation on war, as if all the world’s violence is seeded in the youthful volley of spitballs, baseballs, and olives.
This volume manages to be both grand and humble; her form is crafted, though not too formal for non-academics, but her language is direct and frank, allowing images and emotions to breath, puffing up, or shrinking up as they will. Mostly the perspectives are from the white middle class, a shrinking population as America trudges forth in the 21st century. That’s not a criticism, mind you, but rather a reminder that what made the country great in the 20th century was the ordinary people in the middle who built, loved, sang, drank, died, and fought for something we used to call the American Dream. Something that perhaps belongs in America’s euro-white-centric past. And in that sense Lianne’s book is an elegy for the American Dream, as it once was, for that ideal is changing with globalization and a leaner economy. The ABCs of Memory is a reminder that the voice of America has gotten broader and deeper, and more complex.
— Scott Whitaker
for The Broadkill Review