The Soft Life by Bridget Talone


The poems in Bridget Talone’s debut collection mine the boundaries of experience: the amorphous places where dreams, debasement, loss, and connection dissolve and combine. “Belief, like love,” she writes, “mattered less once it entered you. In a place I cannot reach. You put your voice inside mine.” Here, instability is an occasion for tenderness, a feature of powerlessness, and a site of possibility and transformation. Taking up Alice Notley’s question “How much am I my life?” Talone creates a reading of the feminist subject that is both a product of this world and an agent of its dislocation.

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As she traces serpentine relations between the ways that language and physicality press into one another, Talone attends to the moments of unexpected pleasure, connection, strangeness, and pain that arise. In its elegant and feeling poems, THE SOFT LIFE wagers that what is unresolved in these encounters will echo forward, and their dissolution might enable a re-making of orders, both personal and political.

“THE SOFT LIFE is an entire intricate nervous system of language. Bridget Talone gives us poems that are plastic yet resolute, with such gorgeous emotional dexterity they are seeing clearly through a thousand different eyes. ‘A dream is a judge that eats us,’ she writes, like the yawning glimpse inside a cat’s mouth—these poems are fierce, languid, architectural, and complete. This is writing that speaks to the fundamental impossible bravery of being alive.”—Elaine Kahn

“What sort of animal makes it home / in the confessional nest?” asks Bridget Talone in THE SOFT LIFE, an incandescently urgent questioning of how to represent (and live in) the self and the world. In Confusional she writes, ‘Tell me I don’t look like anything. I just look.’ Talone transforms all that her eye lights upon, such as human connection, (‘I say there are silks between us. Difficult silks’ and ‘But you couldn’t cry into my eye and this is how I came to know our limits’) and the act of writing a poem, (‘I copy pasted a swarm of bees back in / the landscape’ and ‘The voice? I pruned it / back’). Prepare to be marvelously unmoored by inventions like the ‘anti-piano. It takes music from you as you play.’ This is an electrifying and exceptional book.”—Matthea Harvey

“Bridget Talone’s poetry should leave you with only one solar, queenly command: ‘The eyes inside [your] smile’ water. Deftly imbricated by late-September ambiguous abstractions and pathological checkered boredom, Talone wears her first poetry collection like a spell in which a witch hopes to growl, like a spongy, fermented necklace rubbed in sinuous ‘pigeon calls,’ ‘mayonnaise,’ ‘jiggling sky,’ ‘snakewater,’ Paul Bunyan, Saturn, and the buttermilk of womanhood and Sirenomelia. Her prose is slender at the center, a serpentine flower that opens like a phosphorescent doorknob. There is an enmeshed restlessness, salivary fragrance to her language, a language that holds your panty-liner like a gun. While undressing you without undressing you, her poetry tries to make you feel impossible, cursive, and implicated.”—Vi Khi Nao

“‘I’ll tell you what I think,’ says Talone’s speaker and starts off on a wild ride. Talone’s deft and powerful voice contains the notes of someone with genuine marvel for the world. When she says, ‘Yeah right, like I would stand here and / compare myself to the common fern,’ her insightful intellect rings as true as her softness. For Talone, dignity and preparedness are merely processes, ‘loosenings.’ Her poems favor confusion over confession as a pathway to self-induced rapture. In these post-apocalyptic landscapes, real witches rule the earth and ‘praise the wicked way a cloud rides through / the sky.’ Confusion crescendos into desperation while nearby, Saturn eats his children. Under Talone’s enchanted touch, language becomes spell and potion. It is a language that is both frank and secret, as the secret language of flowers is. As poet, witch, and narrator, Talone helps us to find ourselves at the heart of our own trauma, to take hold of it, and to transform pain into magic.”—Anaïs Duplan

The Soft Life by Bridget Talone