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Book Review: Captured Moments in a Changing World

Books & Literature May 15, 2023

by Blair E. Vandehey

In an ever-changing contemporary world, Orion Carloto’s Film For Her is an intimate visitation of the mundane–yet undeniably magical. Even within the heart of the world’s most sleepless cities, her poetry slows the bustling streets, if only for a moment. After all, a moment is all she needs to find the ethereal in the ephemeral.

The story acts as Carloto’s time capsule, beginning in her small Georgia hometown. She opens with a piece of prose about a little girl with big dreams (spoiler alert—that little girl is our author). From there, she retraces her travels and revisits the simplicity she refused to miss out on. Her first stop is making love—and losing it—in Malibu, followed by weekend laundromat runs in Brooklyn, to meeting her “platonic soulmate” in Italy, observing lovers’ quarrels upon French terraces, before finally returning to Los Angeles--and the new love that waited there for her.

Though no one word could do justice in describing Carloto’s work, Film For Her invokes in its purest form familiarity. Complete with photographs of the places and people who acted as her muses, there is a familiar—and even nostalgic—nuance to the collection, as if the reader were by her side while she lived through these times. Uniquely hers is the ability to not only welcome readers into her life, but to welcome them to slow down with her.

Her great humanization of those she met along the way furthers that nuance. Unlike many poets on their muses, Carloto’s poetry does not just dwell on the rose-colored version of them. She bravely acknowledges the ugly moments she had with them, too. For some, these conflicts are left unresolved. For most, however, they were just bumps in the road.

The main way that Carloto makes her collection seem so familiar, however, is by mirroring herself in every stanza. That way, the reader comes to learn not only what she has experienced, but who she is. While many poets wear their heart on their sleeve, our author’s character transcends her poetry itself; her adventurous wanderlust is apparent in the book’s very structure. After all, she whisks the reader away from her hometown to America’s most bustling cities, across the Atlantic a time or two, and back again with the turn of a page. Though it may seem daring for a collection about the small moments to travel across oceans within a few pages, the changes in setting are only recounted briefly. Thus, the bulk of her poetry remains focused on the magical monotony.

Just as her setting refuses to stay in one place, Film For Her has no anchored genre. One page may tug at the heartstrings of the romantic and the next would cater to the cynic. Transcending genre may seem a bold choice for a poet, but the overarching theme of enjoying the trivial remains strung through each piece. Regardless of what one may be looking for in a collection of poetry, Carloto is bound to have written it.

Despite her need to experience the wide world, the driving conflict in Film For Her is the dichotomy between Carloto’s wanderlust and her undying longing for a ‘home’ in another person. Where she wills so greatly to spread her wings, she also yearns for a nest to settle in. Especially after her stay in Italy, the tug-of-war within Carloto becomes heartbreakingly apparent in the form of postcards she sent home in her time there. Filled up with perfectly ordinary experiences, she celebrates those small moments but mourns that those moments were not spent with the one she wishes to return to.

Film For Her ends with a poem to that person, the enigmatic ‘you’ Carloto addresses towards the end of the book. Ironically, the poem she wrote is “YOU ARE A POEM I DON’T YET KNOW HOW TO WRITE.” The title’s meaning quickly becomes clear; throughout three short stanzas, she struggles to find the right words to proclaim she is going to love ‘you’ in spite of it all—whatever that ‘all’ may be. The final line leaves the reader with a hauntingly ambiguous ending where she declares that she cannot live without knowing she is loved in return. It is up to you, who got to relive Carloto’s life alongside her, to decide what to make of it.

All in all, Film For Her is an important read in the contemporary world that seems to revolve quicker each day. Both gentle and assertive in nature, it both reminds the reader to cherish life in the moment as well as to wrap those times up in one’s heart and never let go.

Film for Her by Orion Carloto, Andrews McMeel Publishing, 192 Pages, Published Nov 17th, 2020