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Book Review: ‘Breakup/Breakdown’ – Poems by Charles Jensen

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Breakup/Breakdown is a fascinating chapbook of poems by Charles Jensen. These are poems about heartbreak and loss. After all, we lose things in life, like people and laptops and places: “I understand that/purpled anger in her/face, the way she’s/aware she was/just a pitstop in/someone else’s/marriage. To know/you are not/the one, but just another one.”

These are also poems about disruption, the kind that comes with rapid change, with the shedding of the present for the future:

Disruption/is the pulling apart of two independent lives. A rupture/but I didn’t know it until it was too late. Everything we’d placed/inside those years spilled out/like blood escaping from a vein./Love, my friends, should never/be entrusted to the heart, whose job/is to push away the only thing/the world will ever offer it.(Disruption, previously published in HIV Here + Now)

Jensen understands that life is about accepting the changes that are beyond our control: “We shake our lives loose like a braid/untwirling at the end of along day/I want everything and nothing that belongs to you…”


And finally, there’s the notion of place. A place is ours, if only for a transitory moment. We occupy a space for a moment, like time travelers:

I move into a one bedroom overlooking Glassell Park and/the Los Angeles River and the 5 and the hills of Echo Park/between Division and Future streets. Division runs drunk/through the neighborhood, splitting Mount Washington/into two separate lives. Future Street rises straight up the face,/turns sharply and then goes down to just one lane, a 90 degree/curve and, from time to time, gets lost in the spaghetti of streets/only to reappear suddenly on the far side of the hill, shunning/drivers with its abrupt end in a one-way alley. The apartment/gets a lot of light, and at night the yellow glow of porch lamps/and street lamps dot the landscape like a pattern for the/Lite Brite I played with as a child, plugging in plastic pegs to make something beautiful appear…(Beween Division and Future Streets, previously published in Diode)

I very much enjoyed reading and rereading these poems by Charles Jensen, whom I feel I now know as a friend. If the world is something we cannot fathom, we can understand a fellow who is moving down the same highway in search of peace, understanding and comfort.

Highly recommended.

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About Joseph Arellano

Joseph Arellano wrote music reviews in college for the campus newspaper and FM radio station. In recent years he has written book reviews for several publications including San Francisco Book Review, Sacramento Book Review, Portland Book Review and the Tulsa Book Review. He also maintains the Joseph's Reviews blog. For Blogcritics, Joseph writes articles about music, books, TV programs, running and walking shoes, and athletic gear. He believes that most problems can be solved through the purchase of a new pair of running shoes.