Superloop, published by Brooklyn’s Sock Monkey Press, is Nicole Callihan’s first book of poetry. A 70-page collection of open and accessible verse featuring the lovely illustrations of Brooklyn artist Re Jin, the collection’s three parts dwell on familiar subjects - love, loss, childhood, and divorce. Her book is named after the iconic amusement park ride that uses centrifugal force to defy gravity, and like that ride, Callihan’s poems return to their chosen subjects deftly like a whirling body. Throughout Callihan’s short, sparse lines that seemingly defy gravity, achieves at their best a sort of sentimental, nostalgic levity.
Superloop’s high points are honest, humble, and weird; like in The Wanting Creature, where the speaker enjoys a make-out session with the avatar of her own lust:
“Her mouth fell into my mouth. / I felt her upper lip curl into mine and she arched / her spine that became my spine.”
Simplicity of line, word choice, and syntax achieve the quality of a manifesto in the poem Ordinary, in which the speaker announces that she has given up on
“Imagining I am a saint / or a philosopher or even much of a poet. / I regret I cannot raise you from the dead.”
Poems like Or is it Octopi? and Conviction achieve sustained moments of lyric, emotional intensity and feature weird, wonderful imagery that is at once nostalgic and disquieting.
However, while Callihan’s lines can often defy gravity, they tend to slightly leave the reader nonplussed. A typical example can be found in the poem The Girl, which features moments of unbounded, and often unwarranted lyric emotion:
“With hair to the ground, / tiny breasts, / beetle eyes / gathered the harps / of the field / said / If by morning / you pluck / a single chord / and stopped.”
These words are beautiful. The poem is active in the mind and too often left unexplained.
There are 23 poems contained in the 70 pages of Superloop. The longest poem, titled The Manual, showcases the ups and downs of the collection quite deftly. Divided into 5 unequal parts, The Manual features moments where Callihan’s lines deliver awe and wonder, as in the first section where
“the sea that came / with the seaport / that came with the man / that came with his heart / and took the woman / in his peeling hands / and told her the story / of a sleigh bed / that carried snowflakes / to the center of the world.”
Like the amusement park ride from whence the book takes its title, Superloop has its highs and lows, but is nevertheless an amusing and quirky read.
Review written by Mario Ariza.