Home » Newpages Blog » Piano Rats

Piano Rats

In her first book, Piano Rats, Franki Elliot gives the world a glimpse inside her life as she recounts scenes of her past and the other characters inside them. With a writing style that’s blunt, honest, and beautiful, she wins readers over as someone who’s easy to relate to—someone else who’s felt messed up or like they have messed up, or someone who’s been in love or fallen out of it.

In her first book, Piano Rats, Franki Elliot gives the world a glimpse inside her life as she recounts scenes of her past and the other characters inside them. With a writing style that’s blunt, honest, and beautiful, she wins readers over as someone who’s easy to relate to—someone else who’s felt messed up or like they have messed up, or someone who’s been in love or fallen out of it.

Early in the book is the poem “Who’s Counting?” in which Eliot speaks on the phone with a friend, each tallying past lovers. It almost feels as if Piano Rats is an extension of this conversation, another honest examination of those people of the past, whether they’re family, ex-lovers, or complete strangers — those who have wronged her or those that she has wronged.

In “With an Obsessive Compulsive,” Elliot leans toward the latter. “I wait for the sun to rise; usually I can wait it out until late / morning, until the guy wakes up but this time I don’t care / about being appropriate.” Instead, she gets up, places her discarded underwear in her bag, and leaves after a night of being in an obsessive compulsive’s home. Elliot’s frank language is easy to access and easy to relate to, but may sometimes almost come off as cold.

She addresses this coldness herself in the poem “The Coldest Person I’ve Ever Met.” In another snapshot of her life, Elliot listens to a man speak about his life while, behind a closed door, he slowly tries to kill himself. When he finishes his story, she goes to bed; later, she wakes and he says:

“Next time someone tells you their life story

don’t just get up and go to bed. Hug them.

Tell them it’s okay. Grow up, if not for me, for the next guy.

You are by far the coldest person I’ve ever met.”

However, the poem finishes up on a warmer note that’s just as open as the rest of the book, saying, “I don’t know if you’re alive anymore but / I swear to you, I’m still trying.”

There are other times when her scenes turn soft, showing a warmer side that creates a comfortable balance. This soft side shows through in her piece “Flash Back,” which features her and an unnamed “You.” The two lie in bed and the faceless bedmate says, “‘I wish there was a God.’ I didn’t have to say anything / because I understood completely.” The two seem vulnerable beside each other.

With the author’s honest approach and language that’s straightforward and charming, Piano Rats is an enjoyable glance into her life. With her longest poem spanning three pages, she left me wanting more from some of the stories she shared; I wanted to learn more about the secondary characters that she’s so realistically portrayed. Piano Rats is Franki Elliot’s first book of poetry, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else she has to tell us.

Spread the word!