Review: “______(want/need)” by Cl Bledsoe


______(want/need), CL Bledsoe’s recent chapbook from Plan B Press is something of an experiment. The 34-page book is divided into three sections, each featuring a series of poems built around a single unusual conceit. Section One, for example, (titled “Fill In The Blank”) is comprised of a series of poems punctuated by Mad Lib-style blank spaces, complete with prompts for the reader to pick one of two bracketed words, or to insert an appropriate noun.

The general idea of ______(want/need) seems to be present poems in a non-linear format, imbuing each line and each stanza with more than its single interpretation.

Section Two (“Multiple Choice”) achieves this the most concisely. It is also by far the most entertaining section, posing to the reader twenty-four multiple choice questions. Do you love because (A) you need the tax break, or (B) you hate going to the movies alone? Do you talk so that (A) you can learn, or (B) so that they’ll stop staring? In just a few lines half-a-dozen different stories can be told, varying in tone from quietly tragic to the humorous or bizarre.

Section Three (“Crossword Puzzle”) reverts to more traditional poetry, with a series of short pieces titled in the form of crossword clues (“10 down” etc). It is less formally innovative, but gives Bledsoe a chance to display his raw talent.

Throughout, the collection is carried off with a wit and playful energy that makes you warm to it at once. This is evident too in the book’s format; the interior pages resemble those of a puzzle book. The publisher’s information takes the place of the answers section at the back, presented in upside-down writing to keep you from peeking.

At the same time ______(want/need) is complex and elegant enough to distinguish itself as more than just word games. It is predominantly a poetry book, but one that uses the devices of those forms in order to draw its effect. ______(want/need) is worth checking out for its uniqueness alone.

You can read a sample from ______(want/need), and purchase copies of the chapbook here:

Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.