August 6, 2008

Review: Threat of Pleasure by Phil Memmer

Threat of Pleasure, Phil Memmer’s second book of poetry, expertly showcases his range of voice taking the reader on a journey from the personal to the mythical and finally, the philosophical. He begins with the title poem which encompasses aspects of all three of these themes and poses the question, “Isn’t it enough?” It’s as though he opens the front door to a familiar home where we are compelled to sit and chat with him a while.

Threat features three distinct sections of Memmer’s poetry; the first subtitled “Swelter” mostly tackles the often seemingly uneventful moments of home and family life. However, the juxtaposition of the soft and gentle against the harsh realities of the outside world makes this section stand out and keep its pace. A perfect example of his stealthy imagery is the poem “Watching the Baby Sleep” which begins,

As each just-audible breath
lifts the small weight of his chest

A militia-man’s bayonet
throws him into a ditch.

This positioning of the unexpected continues when comparing the theme of the first section with the second, subtitled “The Ventriloquist’s Ex.” Here characters are created and a voice is given to those often without. The voice heard most often is wife or former lover, giving us a glimpse of their partner through their filter. His characterization is clever and haunting, particularly in poems such as “The Murderer’s Wife” and, my personal favorite, “The Magician’s Assistant”

In his third and final section “Speeding and Lost” Memmer tackles bigger ideas such as the religious and philosophical. Themes such as losing one’s faith God - or questioning whether one’s faith ever existed in the first place – are grounded in real life images. These poems stay true to Memmer’s style; they transport you to a specific time, place or conversation and take you one step further. Whether his characters are pondering a pro-life bumper sticker or having a beer with a friend, through this universal imagery Memmer reveals the layers hidden beneath.

With each poem, the reader is compelled to see what trick Memmer has up his sleeve on the next page. In case you can’t tell by now, I really enjoyed reading Threat of Pleasure and I highly recommend checking it out for yourself.

Laura Davis

Threat of Pleasure is available for purchase at or by contacting Phil Memmer directly through his website:

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