The Library will be closed on Wednesday, June 19, 2024, in observance of Juneteenth.


Start With a Small Guitar: Poems

In this collection by Lynne Thompson the poems are about love and longing that combine the ethereal, the earthy, with unexpected modern incantations to people, places, flora and fauna. These modern lyrical poems are not predictable. Poems of substance require at least a second reading, and these poems require more than that. They are mostly joyous and frequently made me laugh out loud, recognizing Thompson’s honesty about relationships: what we expect, what we get and how we deal with our thoughts and emotions in that context. The title of each poem is like wrapping paper around a gift, with no indication about what is inside.  The poetry is distinctive in several ways. Thompson often uses nouns as verbs, which is a very powerful technique to express ideas and emotions.  In addition, her ability to incorporate extended metaphors and similes is done with agility and elegance. In the hands of a lesser talent these techniques would be obvious and invasive. Nothing of the sort in these poems which are exciting, fresh and elegant.

In “The Long Look” the poet remembers a youthful love where, “---this boy I am remembering / put his eyes on me--- / " He is looking at her and she is not sure if he sees her as an “icon” or a “victim,” and she is ambivalent about her own feelings. It is a youthful flush of first love and passion that is confusing and inevitable for both of them. We remain uninformed as to what happens between them.  Fast forward to “Zuma Beach, 1967---” where an older young woman says, “ … for what we all want:  to grapple with flesh.” “More Than a Rhythm Section” is the voice of the adult woman, who knows exactly what she wants.  Changing forms of seduction are celebrated in “The New Eroticism” where Thompson reminds the object of her affection about the old ways of seduction, “Gone the parchment papers / with love sop writ in peacock blue. … Because the 21st century has ditched / that old-school road to romance, / you have found a new way to seduce me.” Not wasting time, she responds in kind. "Elegy for the Red Dress" is about another time, in the past, when that dress held out a dreamy promise for dancing and cavorting to Dizzy and Duke, and ends with, "And why have you moved on without me?" "More Than a Rhythm Section" revels in song, music, rhythms that are implicit parts of dancing, life and love.

“Nature Boy’s” is a playful jaunt using poetic forms of consonance (repetition of consonant sounds) and alliteration (linking of words when the first letter is a consonant). Not merely fun in the sounds, but fulsome in the meaning that is evoked.  In the collection, this seemingly simple poem might be the most complex for what it richly envisions. This reviewer is not certain, but the poem might be a haiku. Another complex, compressed poem, "Monarch" references a type of butterfly; some words whispered in the poet's ear that are sensual and childlike. She is not a child, and children are not that sweet and kind. In "Start With a Small Guitar" Thompson tells us, " ... this was never a real guitar." It is the poet as siren suggesting, inviting, reminding us that the idea of the guitar will bring forth something special that is still within us. All of us.

There are more poems in this collection and in two other books by Lynne Thompson:  Beg no pardon and Fretwork : poems. As The Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, Lynne Thompson is offering weekly podcasts, and you are invited to listen.