[Content warning: suicidal ideation]
Poetry has always been and will always be my choice of genre, both to write and read. So when Kisses from a Straight Razor (Epic Rites Press) by Todd Cirillo crossed my path, I knew it had to be the next book I read. As I read each poem, it felt as if I was living each day with the speaker. This is the type of immersive poetry that I love–the poetry that makes you feel alive.
It is impossible to speak to each poem, so there are a few I want to highlight. In “Nothing Wasted,” Cirillo creates a stunning depiction of heartbreak and trying to move on, saying, “I thought why waste it. There has been enough of that already.” This speaker uses everything that is left behind because they feel that their time and feelings have been wasted already. This poem was evocative in its sorrow and heartbreaking to read.
In “Suckers Paradise,” the speaker talks about meeting various women and being showered with love and attention, leaving the speaker excited and rejuvenated that people wanted to be with him. But as time went on, none of the women reached out despite them telling him otherwise. The reader experiences each interaction as each new girl is introduced through the excitement that the speaker displays–“I finally get the message/ like a postcard from sucker’s paradise.”
Not only does Cirillo excel at resonating the speaker’s heartbreak with his audience, but his poems also exact such visceral fear. “Beasts Beyond the Bedroom” shows this fear beginning with the speaker in their new house, lying awake, and listening to the sounds of the trains,. However, as quickly as the trains were introduced, the “wanna-be-killers” were spoken into existence. The fear that the speaker feels manifests the final line, “I will not make it easy for them tonight.” There is so much darkness in the world, and it is introduced with such simplicity as introducing his new apartment and his love for listening to trains.
“The Domino Effect” stands out one of those relatable poems about the mundanity of life. The speaker goes to their normal spot for lunch but sit in a different seat, and everything about their experience at that time feels different, which made it far less enjoyable for him.
One of the most provocative poems was one that implied ending one’s life, specifically how to write that note. “A Writer’s Exit” talks about the difficulty that comes with writing a final letter and finding the right words to say questioning whether “To write in present or past tense.” Cirillo illustrates an image of grief that one feels trying to say goodbye. The last poem of the book “Goodbye Song” also touches on how complicated it can be to express ourselves in heartbreak.
Cirillo’s work encapsulates so many of the emotions that come through a writer’s mind as they share their dark memories. Kisses from a Straight Razor uses transformative poetry to take the reader through a journey of love and loss. Through every heartbreak, joyful moment, and all of life’s small changes, Cirillo shows us that we grow from these parts of our lives.
Purchase your copy of Kisses from a Straight Razor from Epic Rites Press.
Zoe Sweet is a junior at Widener University, where she is a double major of English and Political Science with a minor in Legal Studies and Analysis. She is the vice president of her school’s literary journal, along with being on the executive board or a general member of a multitude of other clubs and activities. When not studying or working, she is active on campus, volunteers in the local prison, and spends time with friends. She loves reading and writing, and hopes one day to be a judge.
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