THE BOOK: Dead Shark on the N Train.
PUBLISHED IN: 2020.
THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case.
SUMMARY: I often write about love, gender, objectification, and violence. There are three sections to the book. The first section is organized around the idea of the stereotype of the living doll, and rebellion against that concept. The middle section, an ekphrastic section, is inspired by the life and the nutshell studies, crime model constructions, of Frances Glessner Lee, “mother of modern forensics,” and includes some black and white images of her works that are in the public domain. There is even a cocktail recipe in the section. The third section, which includes the title poem, focuses more fully on the negative effects of objectified existence.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Poetry in its essence has a niche audience. The poems in this collection are narrative, partly ekphrastic, sometimes funny, but, in looking at the ways in which violence and injustice are rooted in our lives, very very serious.
From Karen Alenier, Scene 4:
(Other reviews are in the works, but not yet published so I included the blurbs here):
“Susana H. Case is a poet at the peak of her craft. Her previous books and chapbooks have each depicted with skill her artistic obsessions—ruthlessness of time, the juxtaposition between one’s public persona and the self, injustices of society, and all the small or enormous acts of violence towards women and girls—with intelligence, empathy, and unsentimental precision. The poems in this collection sing even louder with these truths.
In the second poem of the book, she writes, ‘I know/ that to be my own salvation,/ I have to get down from the mountain/ before dark. Dead Shark on the N Train takes us from Queens to destinations beyond, as she contemplates Marilyn Monroe, Maria Callas, school shootings, an estranged friend dying of cancer, and the unforgettable crime scene dioramas of Glessner Lee. What results is a fugue of contemporary American chaos in all its beauty and brutality. I learn a lot from reading Case’s poetry. Above all, Dead Shark implores us to each be our own salvation.”—Jennifer Franklin, author of No Small Gift (Four Way Books)
In this sassy, gorgeous book, Susana H. Case takes us on one helluva ride with a dead shark as fellow passenger, brought in from the beach and left on the floor of the N Train, its jaw decorated with a Metro Card, a cigarette and a can of Red Bull. The shark is just one of the stars of Case’s seventh volume of poems. Consider, as well, “Radiance,” a scorcher of a poem about a breast: “Lie with me, lie to me,/ until your tongue burns.”
If you haven’t met up with Case’s work, it’s time you did. Detective, adventurer, world traveler, professor, connoisseur of cities, of love and mystery: there is poetry here you’ve never encountered before. In one section, Case raids the minute details of crime-scene dioramas created midcentury by the late Frances Glessner Lee. In Case’s lyrics, they are studies in mayhem, murder, and blood. Who would have guessed that these two artists would give us such a long distance, magical, and utterly original collaboration?—David Tucker, author of Late for Work (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
Susana H. Case is turning into a seasoned private eye, observing lives as she leaves Queens to live across the river, but within eyeshot of her roots and the lessons of adolescence. She travels to distant geographies—the Indian subcontinent, South America, Europe—returning to paint indelible, sardonic portraits of humans and their foibles. She writes with a realist painter’s attention to gesture and tic. The truths Case reveals about bondage and freedom are as compelling as the sight of a dead shark riding the N train.
A victory of sorts, the dead shark. The poet is writing her most energetic, and clearly sketched, poems in this, her strongest volume to date.—Indran Amirthanayagam, author of Coconuts on Mars (Paperwall).