“Book Review: Infinity Standing Up”
Reviewed by Liam Anthony
A playful LGBTQ poetry collection that looks at a love story in an imaginative, uninhibited way.
Infinity Standing Up is a collection of sonnets by Drew Pisarra. The sonnets document a ferocious love affair: its trials and tribulations, the breaking up and making up and the overall mental and physical consumption of being in love. As touched upon in the introduction of the book, Pisarra is keen to meditate on what a sonnet is and how the notion of infinity can be applied to it.
“And what if a sonnet were numbered infinity or pi or as a fraction or the price of a couple tacos?”
Pisarra’s collection is separated into acts, creating the sense of both a narrative structure and the tension and imagination that comes with theater. Beginning with “Sonnet 8,” the reader dives straight into the notion of the all-consuming physical feeling of being in love, using the analogy of how a human body works to measure how ephemeral a relationship can be. “I’d like to climb inside your mouth feet first/ to tickle toes upon your teeth and tongue.”
In “Sonnet 69,” Pisarra analyzes the visual possibilities of a common sexual position using a rather comedic approach. “…And like the two/ tail-chasing fish in the house of Pisces,/ the top of a half-stripped Phillips head screw,/ this yin-yang icon of carnal vices/ is an Escher-like sketch telling us what/ to do….” Like the humor of the aforementioned poem, “Sonnet 6” acts a humorous love letter to a former lover’s private parts, reading like a declaration: “Oh, thick-headed prick, oh tool of no pretension,/ oh wood that could, and dick shaped like a can of beer…/but even shallow love lost can feel bittersweet.”
Away from the landscape of sex in the book, which is ubiquitous, the reader can’t deny the musicality of the poet. In “Sonnet 32°” the reader is taken to a common scenario in relationships, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde emotional oscillation of someone being hot and cold. It is the last two lines when read aloud that ignite something wonderfully melodic which reinforces the sheer power of rhyme. “I don’t care if this role-playing is wrong or right:/ I’m 32 in Celsius, not Fahrenheit.”
With Infinity Standing Up Pisarra is able to be both faithful to the sonnet form and incorporate the social zeitgeist into his subject matter. In “Sonnet 1-800,” he observes the influence of dating apps as the tapestry of romance in the twenty-first century. Whereas, “Sonnet 917-859-9XXX” is written like a text message, using a more colloquial linguistic approach. Pisarra has an ability to break the status quo here with what is expected from a sonnet in both content and language, and it works wonderfully in his favor.
Like many poets, Pisarra provides questions instead of answers for his readers, like the interesting philosophical inquiry in “Sonnet 24/7,” which places an emphasis on time and how one imagines being with a person all the time, yet somehow the reality isn’t indicative of that. “In my dreams, we’re together ’round the clock./ This room knows different: Tickety tock.”
For earnest lovers of poetry, Pisarra is like an alchemist with imagery. One of my favorites from this collection is “Sonnet 33 1/3,” painted with metaphors of music and how it becomes embedded in a person’s consciousness when the absence of a lover is so apparent. “…And though not the worst/ part of our on-again off-again ways,/ the latest loss of you stings anew/ as if a rare LP, worn by replays,/ was lost or scratched beyond repair….”
Pisarra throughout this collection is prolific in his representation of masculinity. In “Sonnet X+Y,”the comparison of Shelley’s Frankenstein makes a comment on the perfect image the media portrays of what is considered an attractive man. The vulnerability of “Sonnet i” with its tremendous use of enjambment invites the reader to feel the writer’s desperation.
There is a quote in “Foreword (But Not Too Forward)” that succinctly describes the power of the sonnet form as “[The] best example of how rhyme and meter can provide the imagination not with a prison but with a theater.” Infinity Standing Up allows this to be the case for the reader. It contains grit, musicality, honesty, social commentary, and vulnerability whilst providing a love story on its center stage. At times it reads like a musical, at times like a journal, and always with an audience in mind. Drew Pisarra has provided an intelligent, well-written book that takes the perception of a classic poetic form and drops it into the world of 2019.
Publisher: Capturing Fire Press
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