I know now that nothing written will bring love

Laura Carter


of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures
Jenny Boully
Coconut Books
108 pp.


Jenny Boully provides the reader of this fine book with a series of meditations on her reasoning behind it, and it makes sense in a (shall we say?) cosmic way:

I want to clear the record. In retrospect, I know now, why circumstances were as they were. These poetic failures were the result of youth, of a certain naiveté, of the grandest of all illusions, that is, of believing, despite results that suggested otherwise, that these very poetic failures, along with a profundity of thought, would lure my love to me and keep him there. I know now that nothing written will bring love. Love comes when you abandon the delusion, when you realize that you can proceed, even creatively, without it. Your life and happiness are worth more than your sufferings.

These poems do indeed explore a youth that Boully says are “the papers of a life not mine, no longer mine.” Their titles indicate that she is reflecting, pondering really, with the lushest of language, on love that did not happen, on love that she is “pining” for, but that has not reached her the way she would like it to. The first poem of the book, “Today, No One Has Come to Propose,” begins with the following lines: “The palm-reader never asks what I should like; / nor in my lateness, can I request my kind of dying.” Boully writes admirably well about the misgivings of her youth. She employs the most metaphorical language to make, with wry humor at times, a book of poems that is both enjoyable and painful to read, because of its subject matter. This is a searching book, a book that wants to find the necessary, but this “necessary” is elusive, and the book’s speaker/narrator doesn’t always give us the clues we need to pin it down. And is it necessary? That remains to be seen, for many of the poems are deeply-felt desires that seem to be deeply pained by the thought of finding.

In “Six Black & White Little Movies, in Which I Do Not Find You:,” Boully writes, in beautiful prose:

Caught in the belly of a whale within a turgid sea and among me the sorry remains of little fish. There is no color for blood. (You see, the island will be full of strange foreboding.) Even from the inside, I still do not know the structure of the animal’s bones or the location of ambergris.

Boully uses filmic landscapes to create a picture of a missing person, a missing link, throughout many of these poems. She writes with wry knowingness about what this love she is seeking (through falling) feels like:

When I fell in love, it was just like that: a narrow, single lane bridge with a CAUTION sign before it.

“It is quite a misfortune,” my mother said, “that this should remind you of a fetal pig readied for dissection.”

The book is Boully’s first in verse form, too, and the form works rather well for her, as the poems are interspersed among her usual prose approach. And it is indeed a book of failures, as the title suggests; Boully recounts, with just a hint of narrative, the months of the year, a series of beginnings, and the failures that her life comprised during the time that the poems were written. There are characters, also, giving the book a lively fictional quality that is only belied by her confession in the Afterword that these poems are indeed about her life. A. makes an appearance, making her food and playing guitar and fucking her and telling her that he loved her, but only because, as Boully writes, “his drill and candles had temporarily possessed him: I know that about men now.”

She gathers fragments of poems, too, and writes about X, and also about a series of x’s (little saints and martyrs). She writes that the “small x’s are always waiting; like saints and martyrs, they will wait until the end, in hopes that you will find a way to use them, somehow, in your draft, but when you do, they will always manage to make you feel guilty for loving them so little.”

Boully’s text creates landscapes that want to be seen for themselves, and there is a purposeful eloquence to her language that obscures just a bit––in the sense that she cannot be entirely seen. These are not transparent poems––they are populated by the world of characters and by their inspirations (Vallejo and Apollinaire among them). There is a sensitive approach to language that makes the poems stand on their own as objects made to make the art better, and there is a warmth of kind natural beauty in many of them (she writes of the weather, of forsythia, of the bluebird and the jaybird and the clover). These poems wear the clothes of Brooklyn (Williamsburg, in particular), and speak to a particular need that we have to understand a locale by its inhabitants. And there are questions: “If I said that I would like for my moon over Brooklyn to be the moon that Jack Spicer longed for in his poetry, who would understand me then?”

These poems do what Boully does best (I highly recommend her other books, too): they explore the terrain of an interior while not giving up entirely to images that can’t be grounded in the physical world. She can make high school drama, watching films (as her book is landscape-oriented, in terms of shots by a camera), and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, seem to be places and things that are full of complications, but not in a way that we all haven’t felt at some time. Boully’s afterword tells us that “these poems chronicle, more often than not, the failures of love, but I invite the reader to witness them also as creative sufferings, the failures of creative endeavor to culminate into anything substantive or worthwhile.” With this humility as a grounding place, we enter these poems to be changed by their kind heart, and, indeed, are.


of the mismatched teacups, of the single-serving spoon: a book of failures is available from Coconut Books.