Music for a Wedding by Lauren Clark
University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017; 88 pp
Reviewed by Danielle Susi
Lauren Clark’s debut collection of poetry, Music for a Wedding, begins with “[Untitled]”. This poem stands on its own as a sort of prologue to the book. The title alone may tell you that this collection begins with an unknowing, an investigation. An eventual discovery. “[Untitled]” introduces the reader to the speaker’s own true internal understanding: “This sorrow makes me know: the vows / I said at the altar were not the real vows” (6-7).
The winner of the 2016 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, Music for a Wedding, is filled with the kind of gorgeous language that fashions the mundane into the extraordinary. Poems found in this stunning collection are smoothly juxtaposed against one another—poems of introspective sorrow and one’s own relationship pushing up against outward observation and inquisition. As positioned in “Someone Else’s Wedding”, “Anyone can get married, but / what can that mean?” (13-14).
Clark is a master of balancing tone, dancing between less serious—sometimes silly—phrasing and more deliberate, severe lines. One impression made apparent to the reader is Clark’s appreciation of poetic tradition mixed with realistic expectation of the modern poet and their daily language. Pop culture is also strung through the book, with titles like “Listening to ‘Rolling in the Deep’ for Twenty Hours Straight” and “Kim Kardashian and Ray J Sex Tape”. The veil of modernity used as a way for the writer to examine one’s mind and body.
Music for a Wedding is a cohesive wonder filled with the kind of poems that make one question everything they have ever felt. To witness this collection is to witness the navigation of relationship and ceremony and loss.