The series of poems contained in Abes’ beautiful collection is almost too raw emotionally to be judged fairly in aesthetic terms, yet the language is undeniable. The Breakup Suite is about exactly what it sounds like.
You seldom ever see someone else at their lowest emotional moment, fresh after a breakup of a 5-year relationship, and if somehow you do, you don’t expect it to be written about at all, let alone like this. You expect the person to be a fucking mess, yet the outpouring of a heart here is graceful, measured, balanced, contained.
The poems are as much a triumph of spirit and resolve as of language. The love of writing is as palpable as Abes’ love for “E.”
I felt like, for Abes to move on in life, the sentence and the sentiment had to be pitch perfect. Working out his own feelings and expressing them just so was the same act.
Which writer said, “I write so that I know what I think.” Whereas poets and writers may sometimes select frivolous subjects or go on sentimental trips, the stakes here are high. Abes writes poems where another person may go on a bender, with the same level of sobriety and reflection that the debauchee invests into getting drunk. He’s responding to devastation by trying to master his emotions, not get conquered by them.
The result is poetry that documents the collapsing of a shared rich, complex, loving inner world without any such collapse in the poems. That these poems can face the onslaught of raw emotion like this and endure suggests the poet can, too.
Talking about the actual breakup feels like I’m cheapening out on the language, which is continually impressive. The love felt is inspiring, even if it’s over now. The poems come almost as a secondary accomplishment, like, they’re great, but, holy shit, this poet really knows how to love someone and live life!
Abes says in the intro that maybe these poems could help someone else who is reeling after a breakup, but the world of love he describes is, well, lovely. That it was written during COVID is incidental in a sense. It mattered to the couple in their lives, not to the poems per se.
“The number of hours I’ve spent worrying-Excerpt from When Hope Returns
About whether or not I’d ever be able to ignore your Facebook and
Instagram to get a taste of the life we had even though it stirred my guts
It’s not embarrassing so much as evidence of how I loved you big enough
To not take insurance out on us…”
The language is precise but modern and matter of fact, not overblown ornate Poetry. It’s honest and unassuming. Sensitive, but tough, and even muscular in its sensitivity. If being raw and vulnerable, open and honest at your deepest point, is a tough form of modern masculinity, The Breakup Suite lays a blueprint.
These poems contain a slice of love as charged as you’re likely to find, and, despite Abes’ contention it may only be suitable for people fresh off a breakup (“poetry for the dumped”), these are simply very moving poems. In the way you can listen to the blues even if you woke up this morning and all you had was not gone, anyone can and should read these poems.
Writing them was a courageous act.
If you’d like to read The Breakup Suite, please email transfer $10 to Trevor (trevorstevenabes @ gmail dot com) and he’ll send you the PDF, or you can order a copy of the physical book from Amazon.
Disclosure: Trevor and I briefly worked for the same company in 2019. We’ve met exactly once, at a staff party. I describe the extent of our relationship because a review this positive may sound like sponsored content. It’s not! Only, had we not worked together, I wouldn’t have found his poetry.