Wednesday, March 01, 2006



Tremble & Shine by Todd Colby
(Soft Skull Press, 2004)

[Review first appeared in The Wandering Hermit Review, Issue #1, Summer/Fall 2005. Editor Steve Potter]

John Keats wrote in one of his letters that poetry is medicine. True that, although some poems work more like recreational drugs. Some of my favorite drugs of late are gathered in Todd Colby’s recent collection Tremble & Shine. Here’s the start of Colby’s poem “Flight.”

I warmed my hands on the small of your back
so you should feel free to throw the butterflies into the fryer.
In fact, you should do it with total aplomb.
Observe however, that when the butterflies strike the oil
they may become agitated and their
papery wings are likely to splash grease. I should also
take this opportunity to inform you
that I have a bucket of fish entrails out on the porch
and yard-long strips of poplin, billowing from the limb of a dead tree.

Colby’s sentences are dextrous, sinuous, swervey. A reader never quite knows where he’s likely to end up when he gets to the next period, but it’s sure to be interesting and probably quite far away from where he was when the sentence began. This quality is demonstrated nicely by the second sentence of “Scott, Ventilator” quoted below:

A wet finger in a helicopter is a game we played back then. To play it, you lick your finger and whirl it in the air above your head until friction takes over and you are such a piece of shit liar. You should shut your goddamn fucking mouth and never mention it again. I sat you down on the bus and told you all about the solar system and the vast cluster of nerves around the bones that make up your knotty spine.

“Scott, Ventilator,” is the final section of the three part prose poem “Lives of the Ventilators.” Here is section two, “Justin, Ventilator:” in its entirety:

Years ago, when running backwards was still scary and not a sanctioned athletic event, it often led through sliding glass doors; the whole body would go crashing backwards through it onto the cement deck, resulting in dramatic gashes that often
demanded immediate attention.

Was it John Giorno who said, “if it isn’t a pleasure, it isn’t a poem?” Good point, whoever said it. These poems of Todd Colby’s are a pleasure to read. Tremble & Shine is a smart, weird and funny collection of recreational drugs with medicinal properties.


Steve Potter's writing has appeared recently in publications such as Arson, Big Toe Review, Blue Collar Review, Drunken Boat, Freefall, Knock, Pindeldyboz and 3rd Bed. He lives in Seattle where he edits and publishes The Wandering Hermit Review.


At 4:22 AM, Anonymous Sarah Mandel said...

Great review, wonderful book!


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