Carrie Oeding
Our List of Solutions
42 Miles Press

Look at this book I am in love with. I’m not just saying that saying that, I mean it, really. Just look at the cover. 42 Miles put together something that was stupidly beautiful and even though we aren’t supposed to judge a book blah blah blah, I did, I do, and this book looks like it’s begging to be read. And then I read it. This is Oeding’s first collection of poems and it is a looker (based on the number of times the word look appears in this book, my compliment goes deeper than the basic utterance of “looker”).

These poems begin on the surface of things in the vinyl sided enclosures of our contemporaneous ways. Suburbia is running around at the front of these poems but in a powerful way that Oeding’s voice makes more than just what such subject matter could be. This is not a diatribe against consumerism or about disgust with modern living in America. However, in a similar arena to such concerns, Oeding is after something profoundly uncertain about ourselves. “The real moment of each night,” she says in “All My Friends’ Barbecues Need Attending,” the book’s opening poem, “is when I decide between I have trees for friends or I have friends for trees.” There is a stiffness in the members of the population in these poems (a population made up of a Rob, Joan, Steve, Louise, Abby, Loretta, Sandy, Susanna, Jen, Eloise, Jim, Eugene, Dean, Maureen, Darrell, and more, none of which you have to remember for certain across the collection but that you are happy/sad to meet each time they appear). The population is overwhelming concerned with appearances and because of this it can feel as if the speaker is lost in a dark wood.

But again, I must be clear that this is about more than a little neighborhood. The situation of what we see and what’s underneath is a problem that is everywhere and has been for quite some time and will continue to be. Oeding explores this issue in a way that is refreshingly tight in its exploration. I happen to love puzzles and this collection is one. I have read a number of books from younger authors that make me want to move, which make me steam up like an emotional engine. What makes Oeding unique compared to others is that as I read I feel like this collection is woven together with extreme emotional precision. I couldn’t tell you what the shapes of the puzzle pieces look like, and I think Oeding would want that because the speakers of these poems are often not looking for a blueprint: “It is better I included toys     shoes and     and     To plant them in the garden than to take     a garden seriously          I could quickly return     and return     Return with a shirt left by the last neighbor to visit          Let’s see how this will refuse to grow” (from “Coming in from the Garden While I Think of Going Back”). I can’t see the pieces but the picture makes me feel as a song can makes a person feel without knowing exactly why.

Most importantly, if one wants to read this book because he or she judges it by the title, thinking to find solutions, that person will be sorely disappointed. This collection is about action in opposition to the movement of reduction, that which slows until we ourselves are a diminutive, are merely a red dress or a blue shirt. It is an action against thinking about those in proximity to us, who we are meant to love, as no more than stepping stones for us to overlook in a movement toward that which we do not have or that is not ours to have. This collection is action against letting the ones we should love, including our beautiful selves, be razed to the bone.

If you come to this book looking for solutions you’ve gone too far. What’s important is the thing that is meant to move, to create action: the list—“Its reason for being read. Its reason for being, read.”

--Michael Krutel


Michael Krutel is from Akron, Ohio, where he is finishing his degree for the Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts program. His reviews and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in American Book Review, Lituanus, H_NGM_N, and Big Lucks.

Also by Michael Krutel
Review of You Don't Know What You Don't Know by John Bradley