Protein Poems

Matthew Dickman

I’ve been reading poetry for almost twenty years.

I mention this because whenever you read a certain genre for an extended period of time you can find yourself returning over and over to old favorites. Which is good! Who doesn’t keep eating chocolate when chocolate is so awesome? (Especially when the chocolate’s ordered from Lagusta’s Luscious in New Paltz, NY!) Often I find myself returning to the poems of Gerald Stern, Yusef Komunyakaa, Diane Wakoski, and others. Poets I have read over and over with joy, sadness, and mystery. But sometimes one should pick up an orange or a cantaloupe, maybe some broccoli. In fact, a balanced diet of the well-established protein and the brand new vitamin is important to the body of any reading life. Really I’m hungry for both. I’m equally thrilled to find myself at the table with a Pulitzer Prize winner’s tenth book or, as I find myself this evening, a first book that makes you feel like you’ve been starving your whole life, until now.

I mention all this food, the protein and vitamins, because our bodies need them and in her first book of poems, Grunt of the Minotaur (Insomniac Press, 2011), Robin Richardson is writing for the body, for our bodies and our sensual, intelligent, minds. They are also poems that threaten, that darken the path. I received a copy of the book three days ago and can’t stop reading it. Lines like:

“Red stripes of the barber wrapped like cherry
floss around a pole. At least he used his hands, letting
blood as he swiped bristles from a pale chin”  (from A Post-Industrial Eulogy)


“gently. I tore my clothes and choked.
The tip of my tongue a lovely blue, I licked
her ear like Claudius and wouldn’t let go”  (from Scavenger of Ships)

There is an incredibly moving balance of formality and wild human eroticism, violence and tenderness, in Richardson’s book. There is in this collection, as Richardson writes in the poem ‘Feet, Small and Shapely’, a steady rising in a high campaign of casting out,/ catching something wide and writhing, greater than the self.

I felt greater than myself when I consumed this book.