If you have ever felt split in half – hesitant but in control, understanding but not understandable – Amanda Dissinger’s This Is How I Will Tell You I Love You may resonate with you.
This is a book packed full of duality, guarded warnings and heartfelt admissions, about the complexity of love. Whether the subject is falling in love or out of love, never having love or always having it, having not enough or too much, Dissinger tackles it head-on.
She tells us what her poems are and are not about, and what the truth is, through straightforward language and imperative sentences. She says what she is, what she feels like, and what she wants and wishes. Every word is direct, but the wishes are so abstract that it seems like she can’t possibly hope to get what she wants because it’s not likely to be real. These poems are poignant because they are so easily read in the voice of a woman who is okay with being disappointed or destroyed as long as it makes a great story.
Every word is direct, but the wishes are so abstract that it seems like she can’t possibly hope to get what she wants because it’s not likely to be real.
These poems often end in statements of power and finality, no matter how broken everything was that came before. It is the power of knowledge, a lesson and action at the end of it all, a reassurance that there was some purpose in the pain.
One poem ends, “demolish me once and for all / i will never try to learn you again,” which can be read as being defiant or giving up. We do not have to be one or the other all the time. We can be strong sometimes and not other times. We can change what we want, and who we want, without needing to explain why.
This little book provides a clear idea of what kind of person is a good person to want to date. They should kiss you in public and let you sing along to the radio. They should maybe actually read the books on their bookshelves. They should let you be visible and heard, take up space outside of their bed.
None of these suggestions seem revolutionary or a lot to ask for, but often the situations in Dissinger’s poems establish a sense of wholeness mostly in emptiness – “because these are the days when it feels like you are in love with the / whole world / and no one in the whole world will ever be in love with you.”
We do not have to be one or the other all the time. We can be strong sometimes and not other times. We can change what we want, and who we want, without needing to explain why.
There is also no shame in wanting someone who might not be good for you. The key is being aware of that, and being okay with that, and some of these poems show how this can be a struggle. The road to this realization can be long and difficult, but sometimes it can be exactly what someone needs to go through in order to get to where they want to be. When are we “better off” than we were before? This book explores that question while reaffirming that wherever we are is good enough.
There is a fear of boredom and a fear of thinking too much, but there is love through it all. In every poem, the voice seems to know that it deserves to love and be loved, even if it doesn’t say it or get it, which lends each line quiet strength. In nighttime interactions, connections, and dreams that are obscure and unapologetic, every emotional encounter creates an important memory. Dissinger writes poems with dismissive tones and titles like “n/a,” about burning poems without reading them to anyone. We are left with gratitude that the poems in this book exist, applicable to life and worth reading and sharing.
“What happens when the closest thing to happiness is loneliness?” Dissinger’s opening poem asks, and maybe we still do not know the answer at the end, but all of the poems in between can be read as lessons for how to live through this closeness.
(Bottlecap Press, 2015)
BETHANY MARY is a meditative tea snob studying gerontology in Minnesota. She was once the poetry editor of Green Blotter Literary Magazine and now reads submissions for Spark: A Creative Anthology and Zetetic: A Record of Unusual Inquiry. As an asexual advocate for a sexual assault center and blogger for Resources for Ace Survivors, she focuses on boundaries and mental health in her own writing. Some of her work is out in the world, and she rants on Twitter @bethanylmary.