reviewed by Allie Marini
Slouching Towards Entropy
Finishing Line Press, 2014
Lisa Mangini’s poetic voice is absolutely one-of-a-kind—my first introduction to Mangini’s work was while working at Lunch Ticket (No One Ever Told Me, poetry, finalist for 2013 Best of the Net award) and then later, Mojave River Review (Undressing, Childhood Logic, Phone Call to a Long Distance Lover, Annotated with Kierkegaard’s Diary, flash fiction) .
Mangini is one of those rare birds who works cross-genre and is equally adept in both: her poetry and prose are masterful, powerful, and command the attention of the reader in a way that’s seductive and cerebral. Slouching Towards Entropy, Mangini’s 3rd poetry collection, is immediately recognizable as her distinctive voice, but the subject matter of this collection (to this reader) steers her work into new territory. While the body of Mangini’s work is defined by a raw vulnerability and an intimate, confessional quality expressed in unconventional, memorable imagery, Slouching Towards Entropy takes these qualities even deeper, mining childhood experiences and memories for adult revelations. The main theme explored in these poems in not necessarily the experiences themselves, but the speaker’s having survived these things and how they have come out on the other side, changed.
The tone of this collection is planted as a seed in the first poem, “A Bird in the Hand,” where Mangini writes, “I was ten; I did not know/ names of birds or even painters—I couldn’t spot/ the angle of her neck and call it “Picasso-esque”/as I might now.” The juxtaposition of childhood innocence and adult comprehension is planted as a seed in the reader’s mind with this opening piece, a seed which grows, extending and unfurling from an idea to a unifying theme as each poem builds upon the one preceding it. The crescendo of this collection, is, to me, “Bird Watching at the End of the World (ii)”—the title of the collection, Slouching Towards Entropy, is taken from the last line of this poem, with a sly backwards nod to Yeats’s “Second Coming”, as well as Joan Didion: here, rough beasts can be birds, young girls, women in clubs, or the violence we experience and survive in nature or childhood, the effects of which only surface as understanding, years later. The final pieces in this collection, “The Last Meal” and “Boundary”, serve as a coda: a winding down, the calm following an emotional storm. The final poem, “Boundary,” re-zones the experiences, memories, and connections explored throughout the poetic arc and asks the reader to consider, “How far away is air before it is considered sky?”
Want another take on this collection? Read NonBinary Review contributor Angele Ellis’s review of Slouching Towards Entropy, Weave Magazine.
Allie Marini is the managing editor of Zoetic Press, co-founder of Lucky Bastard Press, and author of Here Comes Hell; Cliffdiving: Love Poems; And When She Tasted of Knowledge, Her Eyes Opened; Heart Radicals (co-authored with Les Kay, Sandy Marchetti, & Janeen Pergrin Rastall); Southern Cryptozoology: A Field Guide To Beasts Of The Southern Wild; This Is How It Ends; Pictures From The Center Of The Universe; wingless, scorched & beautiful; Before Fire; Unmade & Other Poems; You Might Curse Before You Bless