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Romantic Comedy (review)

Note: a slightly altered version of this piece appeared in The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide

Romantic Comedy, by James Allen Hall. Four Way Books, 89 pages, $17.95.

Review by Dale Boyer

James Allen Hall reminds me that every successful poem is a little triumph, a victory over the vast indifference of the universe. Gay people know better than most that their identities -- indeed, their very existence -- have had to be forged against a vast array of forces seemingly aligned against them. Even granted this, however, these poems document an unusually hard-won battle against homophobia, rape, drugs, suicidal impulses, and negative body image. If Hall were not a gifted poet, these poems would simply constitute a litany of horrors. However, in his poems, that adversity is steadily transformed into moments of quiet, beautifully articulated power. As Hall elegantly puts it in Swimming Lesson, “I flip my body,/ propel it into the past, into the wake/ of its own trek.” He also asks, soberingly: “Is it a love story when the desire is unspeakable?” In a world in which, as he posits, desire and destruction “are just different abutments/ of the same bridge,” this collection, which was selected by judge Diane Seuss as the winner of the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry, admirably depicts the different shores, as well as the struggle to bridge them.

Dale Boyer’s most recent work is Columbus in the New World: Selected Poems.


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