I recently attended the Blue Ridge Book Fest in Flat Rock, NC (which is a recommend to all – no charge to attend and lots of great books, events, and people). Even though I was exhausted upon my return, I picked up the chapbook I’d bought, The Nature of Attraction, by Pris Campbell and Scott Owens, Main Street Rag, 2010. Not only is the title alluring, but so is the lovely cover of a strategically posed nude woman. I will admit that before I purchased it, I had opened up to a random poem, “Norman’s Enormous Thing,” which made me laugh out loud in the middle of book fest shoppers (and sealed the deal). A sampling of Norman’s enormous “thing” is found quite playfully in the third stanza,
At home it lay on top of everything,
always tense and too big for his body.
It sat erect at the table,
hung over the chairs, covered
the television, blocked the door,
ready to rise up between them.
Such a stanza all alone may seem childish or overly playful, but what The Nature of Attraction does is to address human desire, intense bonding, and the sometimes failing thereof. The poems, which border on repartee between the two personas, Sara and Norman, use humor while simultaneously drawing attention to one of the more painful things in life: that desire alone, no matter how powerful, how strong, may not be enough to hold a union together. As one reads the poems from Sara and Norman’s respective points of view, the challenges to their relationship (at times universal) become apparent. The Nature of Attraction allows us a vicarious view of a passionate union that ultimately does not succeed due to issues that are intensely personal and painful. However, not all is lost – joy also resides in this collection. The irony is that joy sometimes comes in ways which it is not expected. Being aware of this irony makes life more rich. In “Sara’s Wabi Sabi,” we learn, “Norman thinks he gave her nothing, / but he brought back her heart.” The dynamics of this collection range from laugh out loud, personal identification, and serious aching.
What I think is particularly interesting about this collection is that it is a work of two poets, and neither one’s name is attached to the individual poems. I like these invisible egos because it speaks of true collaboration — a creation of a delightful, painful, and realistic way of viewing relationship — with the self and with another. A must read.