Review written by nat raum
From its deeply kinetic opening account of a literal leap of faith, Cicada Song by Ryan Norman delivers a full experience. It’s not simply the chapbook’s profoundly tactile, sensory settings, though the journey from “[c]areening around hairpin turns, / trestles quaking” to “the cratered face / of the moon” spans a universe printed in vivid color. Cicada Song also delivers on an intimate emotional level, showing us sometimes so little as fragments of moments—take “Stars Fall,” a stunningly sparse poem so tender, its words nearly wedge themselves between the “two crescents waxing full.”
The flesh of Norman’s organic landscapes is bruised and scraped at times, but the beating heart of the collection continues to push onward. Although the reader is reminded of inner torment in scenes like “Paint” and “Waterlogged,” we also watch singular quiet triumphs become proud victories, weaved through pieces of memory that are “delicate / despite their strength.” The tug of war with adversity feels almost unwinnable at one point, as Norman sinks into the “glimmering darkness” of a lake and holds me underwater in startling detail through piece after piece. “No matter the successes, the connections, truth always leaked in my lungs,” Norman explains in “Baby Breath.” The smell of decay is present throughout the collection, but hits its peak at this point in the chapbook, where each piece feels cloaked in an overcast autumn sky on the kind of day where you don’t want to leave your house.
But as I’ve mentioned, Norman’s voice brings a clear resolve to the narrative—a deep aching to grow, to evolve. “Have you ever stood next to a tree, boxed / in with cement, and cried for its strength?” Norman asks in “Breaking Ground,” as he prepares to close the collection with the swoop of a flying phoenix. As much as I feel each of his emotional fractures in their exact moment of happening, Norman makes it known again and again that he sees something else in the distance—something better—and continues to reach for it.
Healing is not a linear process, which this collection depicts both realistically and beautifully. But ebb and flow of Cicada Song still leaves me on an upswing of hope—and a reminder that while the future may be uncertain, positive change in the name of healing and rebirth is possible.
Purchase Cicada Song through Finishing Line Press: https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/cicada-song-by-ryan-norman/
Keep up with Ryan Norman on Twitter @RyanMGNorman and at ryanmgnorman.com.
nat raum (b. 1996) is a disabled artist, writer, and genderless disaster from Baltimore, MD. They’re a current MFA candidate and also the editor-in-chief of fifth wheel press. Past and upcoming publishers of their writing include Olney Magazine, perhappened, CLOVES, and trampset. Find them online: natraum.com/links.
Find them online: natraum.com/links.
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