Mad Hatters' Review Issue 10, Fall 2008

A Cure for SuicideA CURE FOR SUICIDE
by Larissa Shmailo
Cervena Barva Press 2008

Reviewed by Cheryl Townsend



How can you not like a book that opens with the “Vow” that

We will love like dogwood.
Kiss like cranes.
Die like moths.
I promise.

and sensually segues thereafter? As if making good on that very opening vow, Shmailo follows up with “My First Hurricane”:

Like a dead leaf
Lifted from the scorched summer earth
Now wet and almost green

Are these the “little suicides” that Anais Nin wrote of? Little turbulences …

... in the eye of the storm
Dizzy, motionless,
Suspended in the humid air

Ahh, and then that vortex one simply enjoys swirling into. And giving credit where due, she finishes, “I have known tempests, squalls, and gentle rain./You are my first hurricane.” Now, what guy wouldn’t like to be him? (Or woman, for that matter!)

In the shamanistic poem “How to Meet and Dance with Your Death / (Como encuentrar y bailar con su muerte): A Cure for Suicide” a Brazilian Curandera prescribes:

2 gallons of pulque (fermented Mayan beverage), or if available, gin
1 case of tequila
several cases of beer
1 bottle of Mescal
2 ounces of good marijuana
a carton of cigarettes
three large peyotes
coffee as needed

Are these the instructions given to Jim Morrison? Could he have had his own Curandera guiding him? There is a lot of dancing, music, two men “but they must not be your lover,” and massive imbibing. The poem made me dizzy, but it was a dizzy I’d ride again. Then there is further warning in “Dancing with the Devil” that “They say that if you flirt with death/You’re going to get a date.”

These poems have a strong sensual spirituality to them, steeping & seething. Hearty. I love the playful way she has with expression, so visual, as in “Skin” where she whispers...

My tongue is bruised
My nude is creaky

Or at least I read it as a whisper, impetuously dank in a lover’s ear...

Take me
The fast love of my hair.

As if she is resting on her laurels, somewhat reflective of an active past - some regrets, some animosities, some remnant yearning, she gives us “Bloom”

All ways are fettered
Fellated and fucked
No bird’s no damn good
until it’s been plucked.
A man? Amen. This is Easter:

Rest that piece.

The 2nd to last piece, “Exorcism (Found Poem)” seems out of place, dealing with the massacre of civilians in My Lai Vietnam in ‘68 by the “tired, poorly trained, and hastily assembled” soldiers of “Charlie Company Task Force Barker.” I thought the final poem, “New Life 1-3 (Magpie Translations from Joseph Brodsky) should have preempted “Exorcism.” It would have been a better segue. But better still, to have left both those poems out and end with “Bloom,” as they served only to distract me from the sexual melancholy the previous poems had left me with.

Still, this is a marvelous pen flowing and I would welcome the opportunity to read more of her work. She inspires me.

Larissa Shmailo
Larissa Shmailo has been or will shortly be published in Barrow Street, Fulcrum, About: Poetry, Rattapallax, Big Bridge, Drunken Boat, We (Naropa), Lungfull!, American Translator’s Slavfile, and many other publications. Larissa has received “Critic’s Picks” notices for her readings and radio appearances from the New York Times, Village Voice, Maud Newton, and Time Out magazine. Her CDs, The No-Net World and Exorcism, are frequently heard on radio and Internet broadcasts. Her chapbook, A Cure for Suicide (Cervena Barva Press) has received glowing reviews (see below). Larissa is proud to be a director of TWiN Poetry, an informal collective spoken word artists, poets, and poetry lovers. Larissa translated the Russian Futurist opera Victory over the Sun which was performed at the first Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and internationally; a DVD of the original English-language production is part of the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. She recently contributed translations to the anthology Contemporary Russian Poetry published by Dalkey Archive Press.

Related Links:
The Lost Bookshelf
The No-Net World
Exorcism on iTunes

to top
Edgy and Enlightened Literature, Art and Music in the Age of Dementia
to top
last update: October 14, 2008