Book Review by Rajesh Subramanian
In Chemistry, the Periodic Table attempts to capture all the elements that constitute the matter of our physical universe in a well-defined manner based on their nature, properties, constitution, and characteristics. There are both natural as well as artificially created elements that find a place in this arrangement.
Well, Drew Pisarra drew (!) a parallel with his poetic venture, inspired by ruminating over his myriad gay sexual encounters and boxing each of his partner under an element’s name of the Periodic Table, based on how his experience with a said partner turned out to be.
Oh, the world of elements (and by extension, the partners that the poet portraits under each element’s name)! Some are unique and some are flamboyant; while most are natural, a few are artificially created. Some last for a long while a few lose their life soon. While some transform from one to another over a period of time, some are so very unstable that they disintegrate quickly. Some are radioactive, some are hyperactive and some are inert! How well the characteristics of elements are juxtaposed on the traits of his bed-partners by the poet in this collection of sonnets that is very well titled as Periodic Boyfriends. The title of the collection implies that his relationships were periodic; but, the poet, as the underlying element experiencing the vagaries of the elemental nature of his partners has summarized his experiences as reactively as possible.
The book is a recent flagbearer of LGBTQ literature and a reader need not necessarily look at the poems with a coloured lens. The poems can be read without any labelling, and on their own merit can give the reader immense satisfaction of having got a glimpse of the kaleidoscopic nature of various human beings.
For a sample, the chemical element Astatine is the rarest naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust, occurring only as the decay product of various heavier elements. All of Astatine’s isotopes (various physical forms in which the element occurs) are short-lived; the most stable one with a half-life of 8.1 hours (implying it would disintegrate or transform into another element thereafter).
Now, please read the poem titled Astatine that draws on the element’s nature to describe one of his boyfriends:
To label you rare is to make you sound
precious, to dub you uncommon, to call
you unique. On further reflection, I’m bound
to rethink that. Your main attributes fall
afar from such details. See rare can mean
limited, flimsy, scattered… Opposites
in a way and yet the same. So maybe
rare is confoundingly appropriate:
a word that cannot decide what to say.
You’re scarcer than sparse, a dearth that dares more,
a sub-atomic bounty that decays
sickly quickly and in miniature.
I note all these things long after you’ve gone…
You made my head spin like a cyclotron!
And here is the title poem:
The Periodic Boyfriend
In Love, we need not always seek for Gold.
Much may be made of Silver, less of Tin.
Long-term runs deep and yet the Brief unfolds
with Joys akin to purest Oxygen.
And as for Sex, regardless of the bed,
a romp can lift one up like Helium
or weigh one down as if composed of Lead.
(There’s no Shame found in cheap Zirconium.)
No one claims Sex is Love nor Love is Sex,
the properties of each are quite distinct,
I’d never label one night stands “an ex,”
just as I won’t mistake Chlorine for Zinc.
Still, Love and Sex possess like chemistries
when I survey my carnal history…
The world is currently experiencing a flurry of PRIDE related events and activities; there is no time better than now for reading this voluptuous collection of sensual poetry.
(Details about the book: Periodic Boyfriends, Drew Pisarra, Published by – Capturing Fire Press, ISBN: 978-1-7328759-6-8)
About the Poet
A literary grantee of Café Royal Cultural Foundation and Curious Elixirs: Curious Creators, Drew Pisarra is the author of You’re Pretty Gay, a collection of short fiction; Infinity Standing Up, a collection of sonnets, and Publick Spanking, a much earlier collection of short fiction. Additionally, his first radio play The Strange Case of Nick M. – commissioned by Imago Theatre – premiered on KBOO FM then was encored via All Out Arts’ Fresh Fruit Radio podcast.
About the Reviewer
Rajesh Subramanian is the editor of Modern Literature (email@example.com)