Review: ‘Podunk Moon’ by Erin Geil
By Katherine Lentz, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Erin Geil’s ‘Podunk Moon’ is simultaneously a punch in the gut, and a delight to experience. A poetry anthology is not typically the first thing I would reach for on a bookshelf, but this collection, complete with a snippet from Geil’s first full length novel, ‘The Great American,’ managed to thoroughly entertain me.
While the subject matter of some of the poems is not laden with sadness, regret, anger or wistfulness, the same cannot be said for most. Geil is able to evoke emotion poignantly with her diction, and even in the way she divides the verse, but the most powerful tool she utilizes is honesty. The poems, each and every one, seem genuine and personal; many very obviously aimed at specific individuals, while still being vague enough to evoke empathy in the reader. Although the works at the end of the anthology came with a disclaimer – “the words of an inexperienced ingénue” – they were still just as impactful as those at the beginning, albeit in a different way.
Geil’s skill clearly increased as she became more experienced, and this is evidenced by the increasing subtlety in her works. Those written most recently utilize far more symbolism, and a lot less blatant emotion. They come off as precise and well-crafted, while Geil’s earlier works come off as far more intense. However, as I previously noted, the earlier works’ more passionate and overt displays of emotion were very interesting to read, because they were so open with what they were trying to say.
Almost all of the poems in the anthology were of interest, but some in particular stood out from the rest. While poems like ‘Honey Snake’ and ‘Podunk Moon’ were rightfully meant to be the headliners of the collection, I still found the poem ‘Favorite Moment’ particularly impactful. ‘Favorite Moment’ detailed a conversation with a mother, wherein the speaker discovers that the day of her birth did not even rank on the mother’s list of favorite moments. The mother coolly declares that being a mother is not as great as many would make it seem. The poignancy of the emotion throughout the entirety of the poem is enough to keep the reader not only interested, but deeply empathetic to the situation. Family and relationships are a recurring theme through many of the pieces in the book, sometimes spoken of with appreciation and love, and other times with a deep sense of regret, sadness or even anger.
Another poem of particular interest is ‘Reptile Theory,’ which describes a situation where the speaker is talking to a woman who refers to men, particularly politicians and other figures of influence, as reptiles. The speaker’s first instinct is to tune the woman out, because after all “why can’t men just be men?” But at the end of the poem the speaker acknowledges, with some reticence, that the woman might be right. That is, that all those men on TV cannot be taken at face value – they are not human, they are reptiles. This poem is interesting because it is one of the few in the anthology that break away from the subject of personal relationships or feelings, to discuss instead the world at large.
Overall, ‘Podunk Moon’ is a satisfying read, filled with expressive and well-written poetry. However, the major appeal of this book comes from the way it was formatted; the reverse chronological order allows the reader to see how an experienced writer began as an intense and open inexperienced writer. Seeing the transformation was as fascinating as the poems themselves.