There are some cravings that can last a lifetime. If there is any evidence of this, it can be read in Clementine von Radics’ poetry collection Mouthful of Forevers. These poems separately challenge the reader to look at how they define love and how they heal from it. They make us question whether or not love is just one thing, or a mangled mess of emotion. Von Radics begs us to be raw with ourselves, to explore the types of love the world has to offer, traditional or not. She teaches us that the type of love we learn is the definition of love we bring with us, the love we challenge.
Beginning her collection with a unique approach, Von Radics starts the reader off with poems dealing with healing from a broken heart and ending with poems dedicated to starting over, to finding new love. Von Radics’ pieces encourage the reader it is okay to bruise, their pain is valid, but their survival through it all also deems them worthy of a purple heart. While she is able to move on from these break ups, she implies there is always a bit of a bite involved in the process of letting go; a lingering memory of the “good times” when trying to search for something better.
But Von Radics addresses more than just past lovers in her poems. The book takes a turn in the middle of the collection where the poems begin to speak of family and the messy, dirty love that lets us know we exist in the here and the now; the love that teaches us who we are and what we deserve. These poems place the reader inside intimate moments between the poet and her father or help us understand Von Radics’ admiration for her friends, such as in her poem “For Nikki,” where she says, “I know/ you and I/ are not about poems or/ other sentimental bullshit/ but I have to tell you/ even the way/ you drink your coffee/ knocks me the fuck out.” While in its simplest form this poem reads as a sweet sentiment, when looked at closer it is also what makes the poet’s subject matter differ from the norm. By taking time to remind the reader of love outside of romance, these poems reach beyond the ups and downs of love; they can also be viewed as a map of where we can find love and, if we let it, how our view on life can be changed if we observe those we choose to keep around us.
After speaking of non-romantic love, Von Radics steps out of conventions when the poems take a turn by speaking of both heterosexual and homosexual love. She writes of romance as a feeling and not a body, a moment in time spent with someone who makes your heart soar. It is up until this moment that the reader can believe the book is only about a girl writing to a guy, but with a title of the poem being “I Read Her Palms Naked in Bed,” Von Radics quickly changes that notion. The poem itself mentions how there are conventions set for women from the very beginning, stating: “There is a right way to be this gender./It has been taught to me since birth./I have failed every class.” But there is nothing bitter in the way that Von Radics admits her failure: rather it is another moment of accepting she is out of the norm and loves people for their hearts.
There comes a time in Von Radics' collection where she breaks from her role as a narrative poet to relay the struggles all writers feel when making something they are proud of, when inspiration is more akin to a bee-sting than a vision from God: always pulsing, begging you to pull the stinger out if only to be left staring at the wound. She may be young, but she is not naïve to the business of writing, instead turning her experience into a guide through the bleak times. The author becomes this raw voice for others who are striving to get their work to breach the surface.
With moments of bravery in the face of starting over and a zest for rekindling love, it is easy for the reader to delight in a book that offers so many helpings of a craving that cannot be met. Von Radics speaks of mouthfuls rather than small bites, and rightfully so, for love is not a taste test, but rather a feast: a meal which you devour both with your eyes and your heart, and leaves you feeling full.