When I started reading Dreams in the Womb, I had no idea what to expect. Unlike other poetry collections I read previously, this one is an interesting mix of prose and verse, alternating every few pages between the two.
"My nubile heart resounds into nurturing fluids and my form grows heavy in the dreaming void of the womb . . . my eyes are sealed shut but my fetal head now busies with thoughts as it curls into my chest. Behold the first inklings of consciousness in their amoebic state, probing the darkness pursuant of a sentient spark; an infant's first grasping handfuls of love, fear, and jealousy . . . or at least the primitive roots of such."
The opening prose Prior Knowledge grabbed me with its esoteric quality, evoking powerful images in my mind - images of pure beauty and nostalgia. The first well-known work that came to mind, if I had to compare, was Calvino's Cosmicomics. But unlike Calvino who delved into consciousness and persisted in a theme, Petit seems to tickle the subconscious and moves on, shifting the focus and style as the book unfolds, no longer esoteric but very human, vulnerable, and romantic like Lawrence, then shifting again.
"The thorn in my fingertip serves as punishment for taking her for granted, and the bead of blood that follows is surely the opposite of her tears. Her afterglow smells like memories, and candlelight, and lazy days in bed . . . but to my dismay it does not smell like forgiveness."
Before I continue, however, I must admit that I am torn by this book. To me, there are two books - one of prose [which Petit categorizes as writings] and one of verse [formal poetry]. As a reviewer, nonetheless, I must rate the book as a whole.
The verse, or poems in this collection are beautiful, yet failed to engage me in a way I would have liked. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the poems; it is just that I, personally, struggle with rhyming poetry. And despite the fact that Petit did a wonderful job in getting all the mechanics right and selected some great words to match the rhyme and rhythm without sacrificing meaning, I would have preferred free verse. That being said, I'm not sufficiently familiar with formal-style poetry to pass a judgement, but had I the opportunity to rate the two styles separately, I would have rated the verse at three stars.
The prose pieces were my favorite pieces in the book. Each time I found one, I was overjoyed, and I looked forward towards the next one. This is where Petit turned me upside down, shook me, and set me back again. Yes, it is that good.
"I have misguided my talent to distinguish the varieties of Heavens from the instabilities of Hell, and in fool-fashion I show little concern that I may never break away from the dance. I revel in cycles too intellectual to be hedonistic, but too asinine to be fruitful to the psyche."
It is in prose that Petit shines as a true poet. You may think that this is an oxymoron, but no, I must assure you that the soul of a true poet shines forth from the "writings", as Petit refers to his short pieces.
"I am numbed . . . numbed not beyond the threshold of emotion, but beyond any earthly connection to the world and its trite voice of reason . . . and therefor any reasoning emotions akin. Yes, an afebrile sickness of ecstasy and austerity intertwined becomes my illusory cradle-prison of a realm, somewhere in the dismal spaces between the rotating gears of consciousness."
His imagery-rich language is a spectacular example of what it means to be a poet, what it means to see the beauty in everything around you, even the worst day of your life. Reading the prose, I felt touched. If I could, the prose would receive a five star rating without having to think about it twice.
"Love is painful when it travels only in one direction, and words are deadly when they speak of triangles and broken circles."
Petit's collection as a whole is greatly varied, touching upon themes of love, relationships, heaven, hell,
"It seems like the Devil always has one last form . . . one last mask, then still another . . . one more arrow flailing over the edge from the darkness to whence you have sent him. To your dismay, evil has bartered for a permanent place in nature, and when the Devil is not blatant on the stilts of man he crouches in the legs and drooping chins of beasts, prowling ever closer to the fire until a sleeper's neglect fails the flame and darkness exposes a path."
past lives, gods, and anything in between. Yet, throughout the collection runs the theme of beauty, be it a woman he admires or the light of a star in the evening sky.
Rain . . . the unsalted tears of God . . . and thunder, the massive heartbeat which squirms in ire for the angel that did not love Him. They both work together to make mad, tempestuous love in skies tinged as yellowed paper . . . restless anger growling in chains while a peaceful, Zen kind of sorrow vents the poison angst, keeping it all in balance for an alchemic display. For me it is an evening of half-dreaming and dignified god-questioning . . . answered only by the clarity of sublime breaths and the silence that overtakes from where conversations with divinity slide off into sleep, unresolved."
He sees beauty everywhere, and he has the ability to tame this beauty and bring it to his readers. And for this, I'm grateful.
Overall rating, strong 4 stars.
Mr. Petit, you are one talented poet, and I thank you for letting me glimpse the world through your eyes.