As I sat down with The Revolution Will Have Its Sky by Maria Garcia Teutsch, I was, in the longer term, in the midst of reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I could never have guessed Maria Garcia Teutsch’s Revolution would be a perfect pairing with that venerable epic, and yet, much to my delight, it is. The Revolution Will Have Its Sky is, of course, much shorter in length, but it explores and illuminates many of the same themes and dichotomies of Tolstoy’s epic novel, and to similar thought-provoking effect. While that may seem hefty praise, I challenge any reader of Teutsch’s work to disagree that its ideas, comparisons, and discoveries succinctly coincide with those long found in War and Peace. The Revolution Will Have Its Sky is in its own right an enticing, nuanced, and many-layered collection of poems that will keep you satisfied while you read, and deep in thought long after you have put it down.
Where War and Peace luxuriates in the comparison of its namesake dichotomies, Teutsch’s writing explores similar themes in opposition, only to find, as did Tolstoy, the latent similarities between the two. Love and hate, truth and illusion, violence and serenity: Teutsch plays them all against each other, often at the same time, creating a harmony where others might leave dissonance. “A smile is disaster,” she writes in “The Madame,” “love, a catastrophe.”
The collection weaves together various characters and their interactions, ostensibly in a brothel, ostensibly at war. The motivations of the characters Teutsch describes are fascinatingly cryptic and authentic in a more profound way than are many in such brief character sketches. The depth found in these poems is possible because of Teutsch’s facility with language, which is adroit and precise. She has a gift for selecting exactly the right words and combining them at just the right time to create a multitude of meanings with the slightest turn of phrase. Is she discussing a man and a woman? Is she illuminating a nation’s uprising against itself? Maybe both, maybe something else entirely. There is a treasure trove of meaning only the individual reader can unearth.
The language used in The Revolution Will Have Its Sky is rich and exuberant. The words are evocative and lush; the collection is exciting to read. The cadence of the language picks you up like the swell of the sea and carries you through the currents of Teutsch’s images. “Button up the wind— / death holds its breath, / wears red patent- / leather boots” Teutsch writes in “The General,” and you can feel the danger, the cold, hard breeze and the unyielding figure it composes. Or in “The Vow,” the passion is tangible as the words spill forth, “She: you are light as tulle fog, I contain you. / He: You are adamantine, you envelop me.”
The theme of tricks pervades throughout the poems: brothel tricks and funeral tricks, mirror tricks and catafalque tricks, beautiful tricks. The meanings of these tricks is multifold, woven as they are again and again throughout The Revolution. There are, at their most obvious, the traditional tricks of the brothel and the tricks of brutal men in war and violence (rings of Tolstoy once again, perhaps?). However, there are certainly many tricks besides: how many tricks are at work in a revolution? Is the revolt a trick, or perhaps it is the hegemony in power playing a trick? Are there good tricks, bad tricks, tricks of deceit, and tricks of delight? Is untangling these threads the greatest trick, and who can perform it?
Perhaps the greatest beauty of The Revolution Will Have Its Sky is that it not only raises questions, it also gives answers. While arguably the questions have more value once you have set down this petite pamphlet (the evocative cover art by Michael Willis also deserves praise), it does not leave the reader hanging without recourse. Each individual poem comes together in an increasingly lucid narrative that gives order to the chaos, clarity to scrambling mind. Tales of love and war, personal demons and the demons of man at large, come together by the end as the relationships between the individual poems are illuminated. The final poem “The Revolution Will Have its Sky” pulls it all together, reading in part: “The eternal song / can prolong the funeral trick / but for a moment.” The tricks and trials of men and women, as explored throughout the poems, are shown in their greater context, as Teutsch deftly exposes them in the light of reality.
The Revolution Will Have Its Sky reads like a tapestry unfolds: each smaller segment is detailed and vivid, memorable in the examination of even its minutest elements. In its full glory, as all its constituent pieces are combined, there exists a grand vision, far more than the sum of its parts.