Liminal: A Life of Cleavage by Lisa Galloway

Liminal: A Life of Cleavage is the third short book in the first volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Indiana-raised, now Portland-Oregon-based Lisa Galloway believes that “poetry should be a shock to the senses, it should evoke something and it should leave you with something.” In poems about love, sex, drugs, and family dynamics, these poems look you straight in the eye.

The collection involves frank depictions of lesbian culture and sexuality. It is also laced with double entendres. The title itself depicts an irreverent attitude–since one who feels cleaved could be said to reside in a liminal space, neither fully inhabiting one part or the other; and also “a life of cleavage” carries all the intended sexual humor of a low-laced Renaissance Fair bodice. Throughout this collection, Galloway turns philosophy into wit, and draws the deeper philosophy and pathos out of seemingly glib word-play.

In “I Want to Shake You,” the speaker addresses a cared-for bereaved, and the futility of getting through to her:

…like you
are in Plato’s cave chained,
you can’t turn around to see
that the road does go on,
and there is more to life than shadows,
even though the buildings
are all wrong angles.

Sometimes you stay
because you’re still searching
for the words that should have been
her suicide note.

The poem continues in its depiction of the numb griever until finally the speaker exclaims, “wake up, because someone / will have to go out for cigarettes soon.”

These poems make reference to philosophy and mythology as well as visual artists (Chagall, Rothko), kewpie dolls, the Kama Sutra, “Carrie,” and roller-skates. There seem to be inside references as well, to people real or imagined, such as the “jelly bracelet girl” and “the hobbit at the bar”–colorful figures rendered in single strokes. Objects are continually breaking–beer bottles, porcelain dolls–and the characters, though full of personality, often seem to regard themselves as fractured as well.

In “How Am I?” the speaker reacts to her mother’s cancer, telling us, “like the socket incessantly tongued / from the tooth extracted, / this was one of those things / that you couldn’t stop tasting or staring at.” Many of the poems in this collection affected me in just this way–drawing me in to another’s fully-formed world, surprised, provoked, and unable to put the book down.

Liminal: A Life of Cleavage is available in New Poets | Short Books Volume I from Lost Horse Press. Read more reviews from the Lost Horse Press New Poets series.