Friday, May 31, 2013

Exhuming Reality: A Review of Matthew Nolan's "Exhuming Juliet"

By: Crystal Clemons

(Content originally posted in 2012)

Matthew Nolan's second published book, Exhuming Juliet, brought the poet to a deeper level of creative genius. In his first book, Crumpled Paper Dolls, I got an overall sense of a man battling the darkness of depression while trying to hold onto a hope for good. It was difficult to read through as it made me explore the darkness of depression in my own life, yet was too addictive to quit. Exhuming Juliet holds onto the root of Crumpled Paper Dolls while exploring through a world of Juliets and coping with beloved people or things slipping away. It took me on the ride of life, with ups and downs and in-betweens, but I still held on eagerly awaiting the next line of words that continued to grab ahold of me in different ways.

The overall sub-topics in the book are Pure Love, Sensual Love, Hate Love, and Love Lost. With the poems and love letters showing pure love I couldn't help smiling and feeling a sense of hope that love may not be quite dead yet, like in How I Paint Your Name. Nolan bravely shares his sweet and sensitive side as he writes about the beauty of love in its purest form. Many of Nolan's poems are infused with an overdose of sensuality and straight up sex. I blushed my way through it, partly feeling like I was an intruder spying on the intimacy of a couple while the other part was delighted and eagerly turning the page like I was reading a steamy Harlequin. The poems that I refer to as Hate Love were unsettling to read as again I felt as though I was watching as an intruder, yet this time witnessing all the horrible things that people do to one another while claiming to "love." Nolan's poems unleash his fury towards the Juliets who lie to him about being in love, paint their faces while they are empty inside, and throw away his love carelessly as though it is something not worth being treasured. I, as the reader, experienced his betrayal and felt the unjustness of what the little girls who could never quite grow up did to him when he simply offered his love. The last of the four sub-topics I mentioned is lost love, whether through the Juliets that left him, witnessing his parents aging and coming to terms with what I sensed was the letting go of his youth along with his parents', and of course the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that shook up his sense of security and left him displaced both physically and emotionally.

Although the book was not meant to be a biography, it still gave me the sense that I was reading about this man's journey in life and my heart ached for him, loved with him, and saw unpleasant truths through his eyes. Nolan has a unique ability to show us the dirt and darkness beneath the stones and extract the beauty of it as well. I opened the book and tagged along with our hero of the story; a modern day poet who freely loves, tries, and hopes for good, yet unfortunately sees a lot of the ugliness that plagues us all.

I cannot say I have a favorite poem because they are each unique, and I loved the Love Letters and Journals just as much. Nolan's creative use of analogy and imagery paints a slightly fractured picture in a colorful world and kept me entertained. Far from monotonous and highly captivating, I have placed Matthew Nolan's Exhuming Juliet on my shelf of favorite books, along with his Crumpled Paper Dolls. In two or so generations people will look back on Matthew Nolan and list him along with the poetic greats.