Review: “Each Day There Is a Little Love in a Book for You”


Each Day There Is a Little Love in a Book for You, Lily Herman
Dryad Press, October 2013, $10

In the foreword of her book-length poem Each Day There Is a Little Love in a Book for You, Baltimore native Lily Herman writes, “my intention was to fill an entire three-by-three inch leather bound book that I and received from a friend.” Don’t let this “three-by-three inch” size affect your reading; this is a big poem. In its first two stanzas, we can see how Herman’s perspective is not meditative, always shifting across the scope of the work:

I woke to find us, woke
to put us to sleep
your arms were
mastering the sky
and bedposts like
Odysseus’s bow

The first three lines reveal how the action of waking is a window to other actions: “I woke to find/ us, woke/ to put us to sleep.” The influence of mythologies, appears with “Odysseus’s bow”; here and elsewhere, Herman threads myths into the poem in a way that gives them importance but not precedence. It seems that she is more interested in how meaning can be transformed, which brings us to this question: What does that mean for love?

The poem, moving and elliptical, allows Herman to render love as complex and non-sentimental. The effect of this is an enthralling read; the language moves from tender to cutting, from cold to blossoming:

Into the soft sides
of cows, into the flanks
of old trees, we burned
our names
so we could safely
change them

There is first a regenerative imagery in the old trees that is then quickly complicated by the destructive action of burning “our names” into the bark. The recognizable image of two lovers carving their names into a tree is turned on its head. The form in this poem stays true to short lines and stanzas, which caters again to Herman’s ability to shift meaning quickly.

Again, in the foreword of Each Day There Is a Little Love in a Book for You, Herman writes that she composed this poem in one night, in “one mood, by one moon.” Read this long, explorative poem in small doses like your daily cup of coffee in the morning before work. Or don’t. Read it in one sitting like it was written. Keep the curtains open so the moon can watch you devour it.