Monday, September 18, 2023

Dancehall by Tim Stobierski - Review

Love is a hard thing. It seems so easy when things are going well, and then they're not, and it's a whole other ball of wax. Many of us (like me, for instance) have hardened our hearts to love because of painful experiences, but that doesn't mean we don't look back at times on the love we had and feel sorrow and a deep longing for it. When I first started reading this collection, I felt the pain and longing rush back and I found myself in tears. It's powerful to evoke this kind of reaction in a reader. 

These two poems from Act One...I was not ready for my reaction (see above)...

Falling in love with you

was like venturing into the sun
after spending hours in the darkness


The first April night you and I kissed
in the parking lot behind the bar,
I remember the rain
played piano on my skin--
soft and cool, a song
I'd known the lyrics to
so many years before,
sitting in the backseat of my mother's Volvo
as she drove me home from Sunday school
the week we had learned about grace.

The words escape me,
but with your lips against mine
I can almost hear the tune.

and in Act Three, what I went through after my divorce...

from "Heartbreak echoes"...

There is, of course, that first momentous rip--
clear and fibrous and sharp
and so unlike any other pain you have ever felt.
Don't worry. It will heal.

It is the echoes that will get you,
dull and muffled as they are--

It's the echoes that will get you...and they're still there, however small, even after all these years.

And finally, I'm reminded it does get easier. It did get easier. But there's still what was, and what might have been...

from "Just as breathing"...

But just as breathing 
slows once more, and calms
once the running stops,
so, too, does this get easier. 

I'll admit it. This collection wrecked me. But what is poetry if it is not inducing such deep emotion? I say, well done, Mr. Stobierski. 

About the collection:

A queer love story in five acts, Dancehall follows the arc of a relationship from its earliest days to its final, somber conclusion.

In these 60 poems, you will join the speaker as they navigate the highs and the lows, the tranquility and the turbulence, the euphoria and the despair that comes with giving yourself fully to another.

Through language, imagery, and form at once universal and intimate, you are invited to take part in this love story – not as some distant observer, but as a central figure: The “you” to whom the speaker writes these poems.

Experienced poetry readers and poetry novices alike will enjoy the clean, simple style embodied in the majority of the poems.

Whether straight or queer, young or old, single or happily partnered, these poems are for anyone who has ever loved or longed for another.

Advance Praise:

“Tim Stobierski’s debut volume, Dancehall, captures the thrall of first real love in Sapphic poems that tumble with excitement and tumult. I rooted for the lovers, feeling as swept away as the speaker is: “Harvest me by the handful;/tear me out of the black earth.” Stobierski’s stunning imagery will have you enthralled again with the love poem and clinging with suspense while riding the affair’s arc.” – Pegi Deitz Shea, two-time winner of the Connecticut Book Award and author of The Weight of Kindling.

“Erotic, sublime, funny, and sharp, Tim Stobierski writes poems the way tango-dancers cross the floor: His confidence, mastery of language, sexual energy, and essential vitality make it impossible to turn away. You’ll read, and you’ll weep, or sigh, or laugh, or be swept off your feet by longing—grateful to be alive, but reminded of love’s price and desire’s debt. You’ll read Stobierski’s poems out loud and recite them at weddings, and you’ll remember them as you fall asleep.” –Gina Barreca, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of English Literature at the University of Connecticut and author of They Used to Call Me Snow White, But I Drifted.

“Tim Stobierski’s collection, Dancehall, is in itself an ode to love, with all its passion and contradictions, gifting readers a wisdom we could only learn through a language like his, a skillful juxtaposition of love and loss, tenderness and lust. Stobierski is a master of craft, a speaker who knows how to feel, who knows that love is a journey and a puzzle. His titles intrigue, his last lines transport the reader way beyond the initial moment. Each short poem is a tender vignette that smacks of the truth of human relationships, each one a moment to be felt, tasted, savored, cold and warmth juxtaposed. In them, we feel the passion and contradictions, something between the tender and the tumultuous—something like love Tim Stobierski’s poems speak to everyone. Dancehall is a welcome reminder of poetry’s often overlooked power to awaken us to the beauty, complexity, and fragility of love, life, and the small gifts we often ignore.” –Pat Mottola, author of After Hours (Five Oaks Press)

“In these tender poems, Tim Stobierski traces the familiar yet always-wrenching arc of early love gained, then lost. And while the darlings here are queer and kissing in parking lots, this tale brings us right back to Dante’s Vita Nuova and the love lyric’s difficult task: to explore the particularities of a singular vanished beloved in language that allows its readers, its voyeurs, to feel intimately present.” –V. Penelope Pelizzon, author of Whose Flesh Is Flame, Whose Bone Is Time

“This book works like the metal teeth of a zipper, alternating exigent heartbreak with love throes. You can read it in one sitting, persisting even as its teeth catch on and scrape your skin, because it is such a pleasure ‘to remember what it is like / to be so lonely.'” –Darcie Dennigan, author of Corinna A-Maying the Apocalypse and Madame X

“At first glance, Dancehall is a title that conjures, to some, Jamaican dancehall music and the various popular dances this reggae style and vibe created. But a dancehall is also a public hall or building in which people dance, whether you call it a club, a disco, or a nightspot. Tim Stobierski’s Dancehall tells the tale of a queer love story enacted nimbly as image/word dances and flourishes on the page. The speaker in these poems invites the reader to consider the myriad ways narratives are crafted in poetic form. One is struck by the brevity Stobierski establishes with poems such as the “Apolloniad,” which calls upon Greek mythology, and one poem “Falling in love with you” that appears pirouette-like in all five “acts” of the collection. There is a lot to admire in Stobierski’s collection of poems, and it’s a gem I’ll enjoy reading again and again.” –Sean Frederick Forbes, author of Providencia, a book of poems

“In Dancehall, a love story in five acts, Stobierski selects, dissects, and presents a series of moments—ranging from the mundane to the passionate to the anguished—that, when strung together, tell the complicated story of loving someone fully. While each poem is strong on its own, the work is tied together by recurring themes, comparisons, and language that take the reader on a rollercoaster of love and loss. Both playful and hard-hitting, it’s unputdownable.” –Catherine Cote, founder of Project Empathy

“Stobierski’s Dancehall traces romantic love from its early, ingenuous encounters, when one lover can entreat the other to “speak me into being“ and the whole natural world, from the keenest flower to the ocean itself, grows more vital and fine. But Stobierski’s book, like love itself, also embraces darkness. It goes on to explore that same love lost, as the poet learns to “give praise to the shadows,” in a renewed and more reflective effort to entwine the self and the other. These poems are acutely attuned to love’s shadow and love’s light.” –David Groff, Live in Suspense

About the Poet:

Tim Stobierski writes about relationships. His work explores universal themes of love, lust, longing, and loss — presented through the lens of his own experiences as a queer man. His poetry has been published in a number of journals, including the Connecticut River Review, Midwest Quarterly, and Grey Sparrow. His first book of poetry, Chronicles of a Bee Whisperer, was published by River Otter Press in 2012.

To pay the bills, he is a freelance writer and content strategist focused on the world of finance, investing, fintech, insurance, and software. In his professional writing, he prides himself on his ability to help the reader understand complicated subjects easily, a quality that informs his poetry.

He is also the founder and editor of Student Debt Warriors, a free resource for college students, graduates, and parents who are struggling to make sense of the complex world of student loans. Follow Tim on Instagram.

Add to GoodReads:

Available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Never miss a post!

* indicates required

1 comment:

Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment. It means so much.

I apologize for word verification, but as soon as I changed the settings from only users with Google accounts, I started receiving a ton of spam comments...within one hour of changing the settings. The bots are on high alert apparently.

  1. Thank you for being on the blog tour for this one. This was definitely a beautiful and emotional read.

- See more at:
- See more at: