Brenda Is in the Room
Craig Morgan Teicher
The Center for Literary Publishing, $15.95 (paper)

Readers of Craig Morgan Teicher’s first collection Brenda Is in the Room will find much to admire in its feeling, funny, and dialectical poems. Words are arbitrary signifiers in this work (“To speak is an incomparable act / of faith. What proof do we have that / when I say mouse, you do not think / of a stop sign?”), yet the poems thrum with a Whitmanesque belief in a poet’s power: “I am a poet . . . one who sees only others / in his mirror and who sees only / himself in others’ shattered / faces.” Teicher’s work is light in manner but bold in scope; he is a poet who enjoys being clever and playful, but these are serious, insightful, hard-won poems, and Teicher does not shrink from a brave confrontation with the mysteries of familial connection, romantic love, and death. In his excellent poem “The Last Minutes,” Teicher apostrophizes his late mother, to whom the book is dedicated: “Mother of glass, what can you tell me? That all life / is lived in the last minutes, which are too precious / to use before the moment comes? That the last minutes jingle / like a pocketful of coins: that they ring like little bells?” Teicher’s poems are vitally concerned with the nature of selfhood and the complex connections between self and other: what does it mean to be a husband, a son, a body? Titles such as “I Am a Human Man,” “Only Son,” “I Am a Father’s Son,” “My Embodiment,” and “I Am a Woman’s Lover” reveal the tenacity with which Teicher pursues these questions. Some readers might find such focus exhausting were it not for the ingenuity and humor that accompany Teicher’s investigations. Brenda Is in the Room, recipient of the Colorado Prize for Poetry, is a confident, impressive collection of poems that leaves one eager for Teicher’s next.