You Drive Me Crazy by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez

You Drive Me Crazy by Mary D Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Trade, 179 pages, 2005

Rating: 9/10

Reason for Reading: I’m usually pretty skittish about poetry, but was lured in by the subtitle: ‘Love Poems for Real Life.’

Synopsis: Why pretend that love is all wonderful, all of the time? Esselman and Vélez counteract the elated bliss of most love-themed anthologies with a shot of reality, dividing the book into sections on Ecstasy (When Love Rocks); Stability (When Love Rolls); Monotony (When Love Lulls); Uncertainty (When Love Keeps You Guessing); Misery (When Love Stinks); and Clarity (When Love Shines). You Drive Me Crazy includes timeless authors such as Shakespeare, but is mainly composed of modern poetry culled from an international group of poets (mini-biographies are included at the end of the book).

Why you should read this book: If you had bad experiences with long, droning poems in high school English, fear not. You Drive Me Crazy is mainly packed with straight-forward, modern poetry that describes familiar sensations of love that feel true to life without having to bring in a prince on a white horse to get their point across. It’s also nice that the editors acknowledge that love can be less than a bed of roses at times, while still choosing poems that can find a spark of hope at the bottom of the dishwater/laundry basket. If you’re still leery from red-penned high school essays saying ‘I don’t think you understood what the author was saying,’ the editors come to the rescue with brief explanations at the beginning of each section that connect the poems of everyone from Shakespeare to Pablo Neruda to Sylvia Plath to every day love and life. A great place to (re)cut your teeth on poetry without getting in over your head, enjoy some laughs, and commiserate on the ups and downs of love.

Why you should avoid this book: Poetry, like all writing, is a matter of personal taste, so while you’re bound to find some poems in this book to your taste, others may have you lifting an eyebrow, shrugging and hurrying to the next page. It’s probably safe to say you’ll appreciate the range of the book more once you’re out of the ‘ecstasy’ stage andlooking to recapture that rush and appreciation of your partner again.

Opening paragraph:

Whether you’ve been in a relationship for ten years or ten weeks, you know how crazy love can make you. On any given day you’re insanely happy, maniacally miserable, kooky with contentment, or bonkers with boredom – and that’s in a good relationship. Why do you think we call it being ‘madly’ in love? You have to be a little nuts to commit yourself, body and soul, to one other person – one wonderful, goofy, fallible person – in the hope that happily-ever-after really does exist.

Fabulous quotes:

In former days we’d both agree
That you were me, and I was you.
What has

now happened to us two,
That you are you, and I am me?

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which

were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious

so cold
-William Carlos Williams

Also recommended: Stranger Music by Leonard Cohen.

Also by this author: The Hell with Love; Kiss Off.

Fun tidbit: One of the editors, Vélez, is a poet herself (‘Cardinal Points’ is included in the anthology), as is her husband, Larry Vélez (‘Appetizers’).

Would I read more by this author? I would. They did a great job in selecting poems with wide appeal, even to people not big on poetry.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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