Suicide Hotline Hold Music
Suicide Hotline Hold Music
Red Hen Press, 2016
Reviewed by Kathleen Kirk, EIL Poetry Editor
How often does a book of poetry make you laugh out loud? I promise you, this one will. Suicide Hotline Hold Music, by Jessy Randall, is so funny, and so, so tender and true. The first poem is also the title poem, its title both devastating and disturbingly funny…and then you read it. Oh, my. Oh, so compassionate. I won’t give it away except to quote these few lines: “I’m like a deejay and I’m like / a doctor. I adjust the music with care. I fine-tune, / giving them what they need at just that moment.” I hope what Jessy Randall describes in “Suicide Hotline Hold Music” is what really happens at a crisis center. It would keep me alive.
So now you know this is a deep book, a sobering book, as well as a hilarious book of mostly short poems and poetry comics that will make you
1) laugh out loud
2) ache and reconsider your entire
b) love life
d) modus operandi
3) want to read it all over again.
Proof: “Spontaneous” makes me laugh out loud, read it all over again, and…more of the above. Quoted in full below:
So what if I’m not
And anyway I could be
if I wanted to.
I could just up and…
well, no, I couldn’t.
I can’t even
think of anything.
The poetry comic “candy box of boyfriends” makes me smile and drool a little, and is basically very positive about ex-boyfriends (who are rated via candy box). Likewise, “TV Dinner of Love,” a poetry comic of, you guessed it, a TV dinner tray and its contents, makes me giggle and then sigh and want to smoke a cigar. It contains (as a main course) not “mystery meat,” which would be a cliché, but “a mystery,” which gets exactly at marriage or lived-in love. Comedy is a way to strike deep and true, arrow in the bull’s-eye.
More proof: “Love Is” begins with an epigraph from 1 Corinthians 13:4 and then invites you to the real banquet: “Love won’t throw up all over you. Love is nice. Love is not an annoying fat man sitting next to you on the plane eating beef jerky. Love is soft. Love is warm. Love is furry, et cetera…” And so forth, until “…love is patient, but not that patient.”
I love how I can go along laughing through this book and suddenly stand at attention, my heart folding up like a flag being handed to my mother. (Hard to explain, but if you read this book—for example, “How I Love Paris”—you might similarly experience the switcho-chango and wonderful focus of these poems.)
Several poems from the book are in Jessy Randall’s poetry feature here and other posts at Escape Into Life, so check out the link/s below.
And as we move toward the 4th of July holiday, I’ll close here with her found poem, “Crackling Octopus,” a list of hauntingly timely names of fireworks:
Whirlwinds. Snakes. Dominators. Lost empire fountain. Neon crash fountain. Molten madness. Mammoth strobe. Mammoth brocade. Giant willow with color tips. American thunder cake. Haunted fish. Crackling dragon Z shape. Wave whistle. Clustering bee rocket. Total blast. The beast. Parachute battalion. Rainbow fire. Dragon tears fountain. Red wave silver pony. Green glitter with crackle. Crackling octopus. Howling wolf pack. Panoramic finale.
Book cover art by Camily Tsai