Review: "Bedroom Music" by Steph Castor

Poetry has never been my forte. I prefer prose only in that I don't have to try as hard, and as such I have a special respect for proper poets; those who can string a verse with poignancy and grace without fracturing the flow of the piece. These authors are in touch with themselves and their emotions more closely than I could ever hope to be, and that only comes from a place of brutal honesty with oneself. Coincidentally, that's exactly how I would describe Bedroom Music: brutally honest.

You don't get that feeling when you first crack its pages, because the overture ("How to Give a Purple Otter Pop") is a brightly-light painting of youth tinged with Castor's characteristic physicality. It's a beautifully candid way to start the collection and serves as the foundation for the rest of the first half.

The book itself is informally divided into two sections: the first focusing on experimentation ("Hacienda Avenue"), taking the knocks life serves you ("Recess"), and defining ourselves by what we're not ("Astronaut), while the second half is pure sex ("Honey/Whiskey"), drugs ("Paraphernalia"), and rock'n'roll.

To the reader's eye Castor sets out to recount the memories that trouble her and help us (and perhaps herself) move beyond this familiar pain and heartache for the better. It would seem an oddly optimistic tone to take if you were to read only, "Exegesis" or "Chicago Pretty", but these brief moments of teeth-gnashing brutalism are a welcome addition. They offer a jagged edge to her verses' otherwise smooth curves.

"Industrial Affair", which also happens to be one of the more prose-like of the bunch, is of particular note here because it widens the scope of this very personal project to paint a picture of the world spinning on while we deal with our own troubles. Another brutal truth Castor relays through seemingly personal experience.

In that same experiential vein, "Easier, Healthier, Happier" is a stream of consciousness realization of the mundanity of, and the specific type of insanity brought on by, customer service work. Midwesterners might recognize the title as a portion of the grocery chain Hy-Vee's slogan.

Bedroom Music isn't Steph Castor's first publication (you can find her previous work in Guitar Girl Magazine, Guitar World, Revolver Magazine, and Tattoo.com, among others) but it is her first formal foray into poetry, a leap for which she came well-prepared. Each poem within is a moment captured by flashbulb in vibrant technicolor, a tactile experience that lets your senses feast.

I give Bedroom Music by Steph Castor 5 Jakes out of 5 Possible Jakes. It's a life-so-far experience dotted with ferocious reality and romantic fervor, one that satisfies a guttural part of our humanity that may not yet have a name.

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