Love and Other Poems by Alex Dimitrov
Alex Dimitrov’s third collection, Love and Other Poems, starts in the middle of 14th street New York City, declaring to the reader: “I don’t want to sound unreasonable / but I need to be in love immediately.” Taking off from Frank O’Hara’s epigraph, “All I want is boundless love,” the speaker assumes the role of a 21st-century O’Hara in search of an infinite love. In this collection, O’Hara is alive and well, and so is love. Dimitrov places love all around us, from simple hookups to longer, more intimate relationships.
In a way, Love and Other Poems captures New York City with the same energy and intensity as O’Hara but reassesses the action to that of a contemporary poet. No poem is a better example of this than “A True Account of Talking to the Moon at Fire Island,” in which the moon rather than the sun (as in the original O’Hara poem by a slightly different name) visits the speaker, struggling to offer something like encouragement to the poet regardless of the difficulty of the current publishing landscape. Other poems such as “Having a Diet Coke with You” and “For the Critics” also attempt to assume the role of O’Hara. Even the poems that don’t directly reference O’Hara are difficult to remove from this idea because they are inherently New York City poems, active within the city, even when they’re not.
Dimitrov assesses love in many various forms, but none is no more prevalent within this collection than that of queer love, and poems that deal with the LGBTQ+ community. We are not only given quick glimpses and brief encounters with men, but also reflections on trauma that has been inflicted upon queer communities within America. Poems like “Orlando,” which centers on the Pulse shooting, capture the collective trauma many experience on a daily basis:
Or the summer forty-nine people died dancing.
The summer I couldn’t sleep.
The summer of wine, married men, almost nothing.
I understand now why people refuse the end of love.
The poem reckons with love in a time of violence. Earlier in the collection, “Waiting at Stonewall” similarly presents us with a stonewall, the pre-Stonewall riots. It recognizes the brevity of life, the coming horrors:
And since to be queer
Is a way to forgive life,
I’ll take as long as I want
Finishing my cigarette on Seventh . . .
We are placed within a moment in which trauma is narrowly avoided but soon to come. Dimitrov, while guiding the reader through this search for love and happiness in another’s presence, clearly recognizes how much further we must go for queer folk and members of the LGBTQ+ community to openly and freely express love without fear.
A surprising aspect of Love and Other Poems is the attempt at coming to terms with humanity’s relationship with the stars. Alex Dimitrov’s poems, although starting at the terrestrial level, look outward toward the stars – beyond New York City, beyond our planet. Many poems look toward the sun or the moon, but three poems, “Little Blue Dot,” “Golden Record,” and “Blue Marble,” contend with the larger question of humanity’s place in the larger universe. “Golden Record” looks outward at the Voyager probe while simultaneously peering back at Earth. Taking in the beauty while waving goodbye, the poem ends evoking the titular record Voyager carries:
In the words of Voyager’s gold record
if it ever plays:
Good night ladies and gentlemen. Goodbye and see you next time.
TANNER BARNES is an MFA Poet at Florida State University. His poetry has been published in the Rappahannock Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and Chestnut Review, among others.