Book review: Running for Trap Doors, by Joanna Hoffman

Running for Trap DoorsHoffman, Joanna. Running for Trap Doors. Sibling Rivalry Press.2013. $14.95. 80p. PB. 978-1-937420-47-5.

“This is what therapy and remedy forget–that I love the sound of my own heart breaking.” This line, found in the opening poem of Hoffman’s 2013 collection, encapsulates the energy that this collection contains. Whether they deal with oafish love affairs , awkward family relationships, bumbling friendships, or troubling inner voices, these poems stab at the unvarnished reality of these situations. While Hoffman shows life has difficult moments, she also displays the life and energy in them. Sometimes, she helps us find the dry humor in these messy times.

It’s hard to distill why a collection works as well as Running for Trapdoors. Part of the reason is the sheer number of times that I had to get out a pen to underline lines that I wanted to remember. Like this line from “Brooklyn Primer”: “I had just told her not to be scared, and she looked at me as if it were the most absurd thing anyone could have said.” Or this line from “Pride’: “So when my friend asks me why there is no Straight Pride Parade, I tell her, You can’t be proud of something you’ve never had to fight for.” The entire collection combines a lyrical quality with a down-to-earth presentation that makes it not only engaging and engrossing but also relatable on many levels. The fact that the poems are easy to read masks an unmistakable depth and honesty.

While this collection has its roots in the LGBT world and the experiences of the author, the themes are universal. The poem “Because I Want You and I Think You Want Me Too But We Live Far Apart and You’re Really Bad At Text Messages” talks about the over-analysis that my generation indulges in when we’re in the texting phases of relationships. But the poem reaches for realness with the line “meet me in the land where emoticons go to die.’ In an age of constant contact, we can be both too easy to contact and still not sufficiently present. This poem strives for a grounded, in-person relationship to make up for all the half-truths and conjectures that a text message can inspire. Even if it is just for coffee. Even if it is just for a kiss.

And that’s just one poem in this collection! Add this to your must-read list before you forget about it and miss out. This relatable collection is like a full-course meal for the emotions: it leaves you full, and there’s a lot of delicious things going on here. I recommend this book for any library that collects poetry or LGBT materials. Further, I recommend this poetry collection for audiences who may not be comfortable with poetry.

Reviewer: John “Mack” Freeman


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