my soles learn to tread more tenderly. My head of red clouds
and wounded distortions: bells and satanic flutes heard.
~ from Immanent, Pugatorio (with Dante Aligehieri), Michelle Bitting
Published in 2016, The Couple Who Fell to Earth is the third book by California poet Michelle Bitting. This poet holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University, and not surprisingly given the mythological nature of her new book, is currently a Ph.D candidate in Mythological Studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. This book is divided into several sections: Earth, Heart, Immanent, Body, Wind, an Epilogue, and Acknowledgements.
The first poem in the book How Like Marriage is the Season of Flowers in which a forgotten, wrinkled flower bulb from the messy garage has become a single red bloom, sets the stage for the entire collection of poems. Themes included in this poem reverberate throughout the book--transformation, change, rebirth--and abundant beauty: "beauty needs no apology". (Thank you--we shouldn't feel guilty about noticing beauty in our daily lives!) The poem is magically descriptive and layered. It resonated with me in several ways. The house, the home, and the love story, brought to mind the some lines from the great, classic song by the Talking Heads, This Must be the Place (Home--is where I want to be, but I guess I'm already there . . .).
The Couple Who Fell to Earth is the second poem in the book. The opening is quite dramatic, and features a couple who went "flying without a map as naked astronauts often do", and who "hurtled through space and burned up entering". This poem is about passion and marriage, while the poem Gold Ring is about a very long marriage. The book reflects a deep appreciation for the special richness, and, I think, the otherworldly nature of love, passion, and marriage. In the Acknowledgements section Bitting cites other poets and writers who inspired her work, such as James Merrill and Frank O'Hara, but I was curious about a possible David Bowie connection to The Couple Who Fell to Earth, which is also the title of the book. The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1976 British science fiction film which stars David Bowie as an alien who has landed on Earth in search of water to save his home planet. I asked Serena from Poetic Book Tours to ask the poet about this. Here's what Bitting said about David Bowie:
"I've always been a huge Bowie fan so I suppose he and that film were in the back of my mind. But it really just naturally came through the writing of the poem and maybe Bowie's song playing in the hinterlands of my psyche. Then he died, which I truly did not see coming. "
The Couple Who Fell to Earth is a dynamic, transcendental collection that shows a deep appreciation for life. I wanted to linger, to become lost "in the lines", and I did, to some extent. Over the past few years, I've increased my intake of poetry, and slowly but surely, I think I'm understanding it better (at the very least, I'm less intimidated by it as an art form). I started reading the book one unhurried morning in bed (while a Saturday morning dove cooed outside of my window), and I enjoyed it a great deal. While reading this collection, I thought about why I want to spend more time reading poetry. Poetry lets you languish in language, longer. Poetry "allows" you to mull over a word or an idea (which you can carry around with you, whether you're at the store, or perhaps more fittingly, in the woods). Sometimes, I just want to think about a single word, detail, phrase, or idea, for a while, to slow down in this way. Poetry seems to encourage this idea; you don't want to rush through poems, you want to take your time, to savor the vision and the voice. Additionally, poems, like short stories, can fit into the small time spaces of our lives more easily than larger works. But back to the book at hand. Here are some shorter, exquisite lines from The Couple Who Fell to Earth:
"From this time on, love governs my soul."
"The rest is mystery and history re-seen."
~ Immanent, Pugatorio (with Dante Aligehieri)
And from the last poem in the book (one of my favorites):
"The soul of the soul of the soul is love."
~ Epiphany II
Although I'm providing only small glimpses into The Couple Who Fell to Earth, I hope I've been able to convey the expansiveness and beauty that permeate this collection of poems.
Many thanks to Serena from Poetic Book Tours for inviting me on this tour and for sending me a copy of the book. For more reviews and features, please visit the other stops on the tour for The Couple Who Fell to Earth. I've linked this review to Serena's 2016 Poetry Challenge. As always, your comments are welcomed!